Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I thought it would be nice to promote children and teens around the country who have demonstrated tolerance and kindness through essays.
Our public schools and public school teachers nurture that hope.
Our children learn from adults. That’s why we must encourage students to be tolerant and kind. Self-expression through writing is one of the best ways for students to reflect on who they are and what they believe.
It’s a common project on this holiday, for teachers to guide students, and help them to make sense of their world. Hopefully, this will help children grow up to be respectful and caring, and to make a more beautiful, peaceful world for all.
These are a sampling of those essays that made it into the news. I know there are many teachers who help their students with such writings that don’t get published. This is a hat tip to you!
One of the best examples of essay writing this year took place in Reno. Verita Black Prothro reported about this contest in “Students Write with Insight, Passion In Winning Essays for MLK Day Contest” in the Reno Gazette.
Students received honors for their writing in the 31st annual Dr. Martin Luther King essay contest. They were asked to write “how they are confronted with the fierce urgency of current times and its impact on them,” and “to consider what compels them to show up, and how they can use their voice for positive change.” Other students were asked how “The Dream has impacted them.” Here are some samples.
- Nicole King-Shaw, a student at Reed High School wrote about her feelings after the death of Trayvon Martin, “I thought about the unimaginable pain his family must have been experiencing, and I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Dream. And in that moment I felt everything start to shift; for the first time I wasn’t sure that the world was everything I thought it was.”
- Maria Lykes, a sixth grader, wrote “Those simple words he spoke [in the I Have a Dream Speech] gave courage to all who were lost. Every day those words inspire someone new.”
- Elijah Lykes, from a second grade class at Van Gorder Elementary School wrote, “One time I played with a little boy who cried a lot. He missed his mom and needed a friend. I was the only one who wanted to be his friend and now we are best friends! That was the best good choice! There are always consequences to our bad or good choices. Consequences are things that happen because of our choices.”
In 2013, Omaha schools encouraged students to write on the topic “My Dream for My Community” for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Mary Rezac reported “Students’ Essays Share How Martin Luther King Jr. Inspires Today” in the Omaha World Herald.
Their essays can be read in their entirety on the link. I’ve selected my favorite statements and descriptions.
- Taylor Burghardt, then an eighth-grader at Morton Magnet Middle School, wrote about bullying. Taylor found her inspiration in knowing her aunt with Down syndrome. She honored her aunt through her essay. “If people would take the time to get to know her they would see she is one of the funniest, nicest, most caring, beautiful people that I have ever met and I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.”
- Maritza Estrada, an Omaha Central senior inspired by quotes by Dr. King, wrote about her dream to be a doctor to help the Latino community. “A first-generation college student, I will be the second in my family to attend. I will then pass the torch to my two younger sisters who will follow in my footsteps. I have a broad vision for all humanity.”
- Alexandria Schmidt, a fourth-grader at Columbian Elementary School wrote a beautiful essay. My favorite verse is “The world would be boring and lifeless without diversity.”
So, on this MLK Day 2019, reflect on the lovely writings of students. As Alexandria Schmidt says, “There is a future where one day people will not be judged by their exterior appearance but solely on the internal being.”
Resource for Teachers