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Remembering Dr. King


Editor’s note: The organization Sharing The Dream and Laguna Middle School in San Luis Obispo sponsored an essay and art contest among students with the theme, “I believe the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is important and meaningful to all Americans and should be celebrated in our county because …” The three essays and three images selected by the judges were produced by students in the eighth grade with the exception of Holly Myrick, who is a seventh-grade student.


Striving toward equality--First-place essay

 I believe the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is important and meaningful to all Americans and should be celebrated in our country because it honors the great man who fought for civil rights and it reminds us to continue to fight against racial segregation and prejudice.

In his first speech to the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was formed to boycott the transit system, Dr. King said, “We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience … we come here tonight to be saved from patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.” Dr. King’s clarity of purpose, commitment, and understanding of the need to communicate is shown in this quote.

 At the time, many black people feared and abhorred white people. Even so, rather than expressing anger, he says “white brothers,” showing he believed that whites are equal to blacks and should be treated like brothers, not enemies. If Dr. King’s comment about the amazing tolerance by black people of racial segregation and discrimination had been the beginning of a speech or speeches that promoted urgent and violent revolution, the U.S. could have gone through a much more painful era and the civil rights movement might have failed.

 From a more personal point of view, Dr. King should be celebrated because he made it possible for me to live in the honor I’m living in right now. When my parents were going to buy it, like all other houses, they had to sign numerous documents. As they were going through it, they found an Indenture written in 1922, which established rules that governed the houses and occupants of that subdivision. One provision in it said, “No part of said premises shall be sold to, conveyed to, leased to or rented to, nor shall the same ever be used or occupied by any person of either Negro, African, or Asiatic race or any person not of the Caucasian race.” My mother is Japanese and I am half Japanese, which means technically she couldn’t buy the house and I couldn’t live in it. Angrily, my parents sent the document back, saying they would not sign it because they didn’t agree with it.

 Because of Dr. King’s willingness to take the risk of peacefully but forcefully speaking out about the need for civil rights, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was enacted. His actions and the actions of other civil rights activists have made it possible for my family along with many other families to live and work in the community where we now reside. Dr. King’s efforts have resulted in a greater degree of freedom and protection for blacks as well as other people of color. His efforts have promoted a greater degree of acceptance of people’s differences and I believe the United States is a better place for it.


Reminders of our past--Second-place essay

The work of Martin Luther Luther King, Jr., as well as many other civil rights leaders, continues to inspire us. In the time that the United States has been an independent nation, the rights of certain people, and the people themselves, have been abused.  Though today most people are treated equally, there are still some groups that are discriminated against and separated from others. I believe the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is important and meaningful to all Americans and should be celebrated in our country because it serves as a reminder of how our country used to treat others and how far we have come to becoming a completely united nation by treating every person equally.

Many people say, as they look back into our nation’s history, it is amazing how we have changed. The time when African Americans were openly discriminated against was not so long ago.

 Following the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., people in the U.S. have come together and realized that every person living here should be treated equally. Now, even the leader of our nation is an African American. If any person had said in the 1960s that an African American would be our president someday, not one single person would have believed them. It would have been outrageous to say, even think, something that unrealistic. But today we know that unrealistic idea has become reality.

Every year our entire country celebrates a man who gave his life to give people of his race the liberties others take for granted. The purpose of this holiday is to remind all people, black and white, how the United States treated certain people.

 By believing that other humans are not as worthy as others, our country is not as united as our name implies. Treating every person equally is a sign of unity. Without this equality, certain groups are neglected or rejected and the relationships between these people gradually become more distant. The groups that are formed are a clear symbol of an unequal society. By not rejecting or discriminating, these groups will not form like they did in the past and the people in this country will be united. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who was brave enough to stand up about what was wrong. Because of him we can be proud of our country’s name and not be people who believe in our country but do the opposite of our original aim. What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did for us is extraordinary, which is why every person living in the United States has the responsibility to celebrate his achievements.


We still have a dream--Third-place essay

 All generations have one significant person who gives the people hope for the future. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the public face of operation “equality.” African Americans all over the South found the courage to stand up and fight for equality because they had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to stand behind. He was a man with a clear vision of the future, which he described in his famous speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

He was a man with an image of a country where no person would be discriminated against because of their physical characteristics and he was willing to do anything nonviolent to make this dream come true. I believe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is important and meaningful to all Americans and should be celebrated in our country because he taught many Americans the lessons of tolerance and equality; his work set an example for future generations.

 Dr. King led many marches and gave many speeches that addressed the lack of equality between European Americans and African Americans. I believe we have not yet reached the point of equality for all people. For example, gays are still not allowed to marry in most states. Even today, African Americans have higher incarceration rates and lower college graduate rates than European Americans. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday reminds Americans should continue to work to ensure that every individual has equal rights and opportunities.

Reaching his dream didn’t come easy for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Using peaceful marches, boycotts, and court battles, it took him at least nine years to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed; these two laws ensured voting rights and labor protection for African-Americans and began the process of desegregation. Dr. King was one of the first people who changed the political landscape of America significantly without being an elected politician. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday reminds Americans that the people of America should use peaceful protest and the legal process to change things that need to be changed. It reminds us that our forebearers set up a government where the main power rests with the people and that Americans should be active in politics.

 The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a very important holiday and is meaningful to all Americans. This holiday should be celebrated in our country because Martin Luther King Jr. taught the lessons of tolerance and equality. His work set an example for future generations and reminds us that all our country should continue to expand human rights.


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