Featured, hosted and sponsored by Foley & Lardner LLP, the firm made significant changes to event production in order to follow current health and safety guidelines. The events were conducted using a hybrid live-virtual approach to help ensure the continuity and security of past events for all involved.
The winners of each competition are Dominique patermo, fifth student of Harry C. Withers Elementary School Dallas; Vivianna Serna, fourth pupil of Crespo elementary school in Houston; and Jesudemilade Adediji, fifth student at Avalon Park Elementary School Chicago.
Dallas student lists four lessons that would help the world come together
Dominique patermo, the winner of the first place Dallas, discussed four key lessons from Dr King that would help bring the world together. He spoke of living with intention and purpose and knowing your cause. He explained that change is constant and it’s your reaction that matters. He said he’s enlisting your allies, even though they’re not your best friends. And above all, persevere.
“We must pursue the truth within ourselves! We must continue to strive for what is right and have compassion and faith for one another,” exclaimed Patermo. He ended the speech by proclaiming, “Our ‘Americanity’ is not enough. We must be united. Believe. Be real. Be you.”
“It was a pleasure to see the students deliver such inspiring messages with the same passion and grace that MLK Jr. himself has shown,” said Michael newman, Managing Partner of Foley’s Dallas Office. “I am incredibly proud of the students, the Dallas Independent School District teams, the staff at Foley and all who have helped bring this event together in these tumultuous times.”
Zoe Frazier, a fourth-year student of JP Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard, placed second Dallas competition, while Dinastee McKinney of Clara Oliver Elementary School took third place.
Houston the fourth student reflects on current events and shares words of wisdom
Houston first place winner, Vivianna Serna, began his speech with a colorful and vivid memory of his first experience of racism at the age of six, judged by the color of his brown skin. The student went on to express her concerns about the current social unrest and our global health pandemic, reminding us that Dr King would like us not to stumble but to move on.
While reflecting on the current trials and tribulations of the world, Vivianna said, “We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. Dr King has always preached on the power of love.” She ended with her strongest conviction and a quote from Dr King himself: “The time has always come to do what is right”.
“This year’s MLK Jr. Speaking Contest was a momentous occasion. It was the 25th anniversary of this event in Houston. We are operating in unprecedented times, and the world more than ever needs to hear the voices of these students, ”said Claude treece, Chief Administrative Partner of Foley and longtime chairman of the event Houston competition. “I am honored to have witnessed the intelligence and poise of these students. They still inspire me and I hope they brought optimism to everyone who watched.”
Pahy’tton Williams, a fourth grader at Foster Elementary, placed second Houston competition, while Jakiyah Bickham, a fourth-grader from Pleasantville Elementary School, took third place.
Chicago The fifth student urges to “keep fighting to keep Dr. King’s dream alive”.
Chicago first place winner Jesudemilade Adediji addressed the audience reciting Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. His voice echoing over the speakers like Dr King’s speech in 1963, Adediji said, “I have a dream today. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. I have a dream that the people are created equal. “
Throughout his speech, Adediji empowered people to continue the great work that Dr. King began years ago, ending his speech by noting, “Let’s keep making the King’s Dream come true. strive for equality for all. Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can! “
“Despite the challenges of the school year, we are delighted to have tripled the number of participating schools in the Chicago competition “, said Frank pasquesi, Managing Partner of Foley’s Chicago Office. “The growth of the competition this year is a true testament to the importance of Dr. King’s teachings and the enthusiasm and resilience of these wonderful students who participated. We have seen future leaders, and I am sure the world is in good hands with voices like theirs. “
Zuri young, a fifth grader at Caldwell Elementary, placed second Chicago competition, while the fifth Aniyah Hunt by Frank L. Gillespie Elementary won third place.
Each of the competitions began with qualifying rounds at the school, which were conducted by video, followed by semi-finals in Dallas and Houston, and the last competition round in each city on January 15th. At all levels of the competition, students were assessed on performance, stage presence and decorum, interpretation of content and memorization. During the final, panels of business leaders and renowned local communities judged the students on their performance.
The oratory competition is organized in parallel with Martin Luther King jr. Day to encourage people to remember and pay tribute to the legacy of the late civil rights leader. Foley hosted the event to encourage students to learn more about Dr. King and to help cultivate the writing and speaking skills of elementary school students.
The competition was created in Dallas in 1993. The success of the event led to the creation of the Houston competition in 1997 and the Chicago competition in 2020.
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