keeping the dream alive

Houston kids keep MLK's dream alive in powerful oratory competition

Houston kids keep MLK's dream alive in powerful oratory competition

Vivianna Serna MLK oratory competition Houston
The competition runs highlights young star speakers in Houston.  Photo by Katy Anderson

In these oft-divisive times, it’s the voices of youth that often bridge the gaps in society. With that in mind, an annual competition seeks to harness the best and brightest in young talent in honor of one of our nation’s greatest socio-political leaders.

The 26th Annual Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competition kicks off this month, and numerous fourth and fifth-grade students from 23 Houston Independent School District elementary schools will present their speeches at the in-school qualifying rounds.

Much like contests around the country depicted in the film We Are the Dream, this Martin Luther King-inspired competition invites students to compose and present original three-to-five minute speeches addressing the topic: “How would Dr. King assess our progress in achieving his vision for America?” Students will be judged on their delivery, stage presence and decorum, content interpretation, and memorization, per a release.

Judges will determine the first-place winner from each school; those students will participate in the semifinal competition January 7. Twelve finalists will be selected and advance to the final round to be held January 14 at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Christ, 500 Clay St.

Participating Houston ISD elementary schools include:

  • Atherton Elementary
  • Ashford Elementary
  • Bastian Elementary
  • Blackshear Elementary
  • Burrus Elementary
  • Cornelius Elementary
  • Crespo Elementary
  • Foster Elementary
  • James H. Law Elementary
  • Kate Bell Elementary
  • Kelso Elementary
  • Ketelsen Elementary
  • Lockhart Elementary
  • MacGregor Elementary
  • Pleasantville Elementary
  • Reynolds Elementary
  • Sutton Elementary
  • Thompson Elementary
  • Valley West Elementary
  • Wainwright Elementary
  • Windsor Village Elementary
  • Woodson Elementary
  • Young Elementary

Created in Dallas in 1993, the event’s success led to the establishment of the Houston competition in 1997, and a Chicago competition in 2020, a release notes.

Winners and participants have delivered their speeches to numerous local and national organizations, and appeared on programs including CBS’ The Early Show, Oprah, Good Morning America, Today, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.