Visions for a Nation
Pasadena area students bring Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream’ to life
In an effort to encourage Pasadena’s school children to actively study the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and assess his impact on their lives, the Martin Luther King Community Coalition has sponsored an annual essay and art contest for the past several years. Offering trophies as well as cash prizes funded by the Tournament of Roses Association, the contests have drawn more than 2,000 entries annually, as students compete to win first- through third-place prizes in the categories of Best Essay and Best Artwork.
With cash prizes ranging from $125 to $300 — depending on whether students were competing at the elementary, middle school or high school level — interest was high and the entries were often outstanding. According to Dr. Jackie Jacobs, president of the coalition and a former member of the Pasadena Board of Education, the contest is a success on multiple levels.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about Dr. King and display their academic skills in either writing or art,” said Jacobs. “We especially appreciate the Tournament of Roses because their cash prizes provide a lot of incentive for kids to take part and really make a great effort.”
Following are the three top essay award winners:
‘Out of One Blood …’
By Johanna Dickie
Dr. King is one of the most remembered leaders in the advancement of civil rights in the United States, using nonviolent protests and civil disobedience to unite people to end prejudice. Dr. King dreamed of ending segregation, discrimination and racial inequality through peace. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, “I have a dream that one day, even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” He continued, saying, “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 the table of brotherhood.”
Like Dr. King, I have a dream for my country. I have a dream that all students, like me, will always have a place that they can call home that is safe, secure and full of love. I have a dream that middle school and high school students will treat each other with respect and equality, no matter the color of their skin, economic status or disability, and not judge a person by their outward appearance, but by the content of their character.
Homelessness is a major problem all around us. Everywhere you look, on many street corners, there are homeless people asking for money. However, homelessness is not only an adult issue.
According the US Department of Education, the number of homeless students in public schools topped 1 million by the end of the 2011 school year, with California having the highest amount of homeless students in the United States. Homelessness can affect a student’s self-esteem and how a student succeeds in school. My dream is for all students to have a safe place to stay, where they feel secure and loved and have a bed, food and clothing. They should also have support from adults and peers to help with homework. This will help a student to be successful, and success in school gives them more opportunities in adulthood. A home builds self-esteem, confidence and a sense of well-being.
Many students in school these days are judged by their peers for their clothes, hair, makeup, media gadgets, popularity and money. Everywhere you look in social media there are messages — mainly directed at teenagers — that lower a student’s self-esteem and self-image. Today’s media is very powerful, and students are directly affected by it. My dream is that every person, young and old, sees each other as beautiful just the way they are, and that students will no longer criticize each other, bully each other or compare one another. We should recognize each other’s uniqueness and character, rather than our appearance or what kind of cell phone we are carrying or music we listen to. As Dr. King stated, “Out of one blood God made all men to dwell on the face of the earth,” and, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” If we practiced this, bullying in schools would be less of an issue, and we would be free to focus on improving important friendships.
King was an extremely powerful speaker who persuaded others to follow him in his nonviolent fight for civil rights. Although it is not a perfect world, because of his heartfelt efforts, laws were changed and people are still motivated to make a stand. My dream is to help homelessness and build confidence and character in schools. I hope I will be able to have the courage and strength to make a difference in the world someday, just like King.
Johanna Dickie, 12, is a seventh-grade student at Blair Middle School. Her teacher is Christine McLaughlin.
My Dreams Start With You
By Kacie Ossmen
My dream for America would be for everyone to show kindness. We need to be kind to everyone, no matter what they look like. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted everyone to be treated equally, but he did it with kindness. He didn’t shoot or hurt anyone, and that’s a good example.
One day, my mother went to the store to get food. She was driving to the front of the store when she saw a homeless person. There was something different about this man. He was wearing a hospital band and had torn clothes. My mom went over to the man and gave him a $5 bill. She said, “You might need this.” He was very happy and grateful. Then he told my mom he had been beaten badly by gangsters. It was so bad that he had to go to the hospital. My mother showed kindness to him by giving him money.
It’s easy to show kindness. You can wave or say hello. You can respect others’ personal space. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. You can simply smile. Those are ways to show kindness. If we are all kind to each other, it will be a better life. It can be hard to show kindness all the time. Try to remember to treat others the way you want to be treated.
Great things come out of great actions. You’ll know that you did the right thing when you are kind. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted no one to be looked at by their color, but by their personality and how kind they are. That’s my dream and I hope that it will come true, now or in the future. It won’t happen in a day, it’ll take time, but it can happen. Remember, my dream starts with you.
Fixing a Broken Society
By Madeleine Cameron
On Aug. 28, 1963, over 200,000 people witnessed one of the most powerful speeches in American history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed his hope for a broken nation, one that was tainted with segregation, violence and compromised morals. I believe he is one of the greatest role models in history, not only striving to stop violence, but stressing the importance of stopping it in a peaceful manner: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
Our nation has come a long way since Dr. King gave his speech, but we are still a broken society. True, our country has made great leaps and bounds in its mission to expel racism and prejudice. No longer do we have drinking fountains that proclaim “whites only.” But there is still violence in the streets of our cities. My dream for America is that we, as a nation, take the first steps toward world peace, setting an example for other countries in the midst of a world flaming with the heat of violence.
We have far to go. For 11 years, the United States has been a major player in the war in Afghanistan. We have spent over $468 billion since it started — money that could have been used to support our homeless, our schools, our hospitals and our environment. But money is not the only thing the war has cost us. Since 2001, over 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in the Afghanistan war. Many more have been permanently injured. And it is estimated that 10,878 Afghan women, men and children have died in the war. In “Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” Dr. King showed that war was an enemy and manipulator of the poor and marginalized, taking advantage of their vulnerable state and sending them to fight for the country that betrayed them. “I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America.” As a world superpower, America must set the example. After centuries of experience, I am horrified that America has not acknowledged the futility of war. War is not a way of solving problems; instead, it exacerbates them. I do not believe our world will ever be completely without violence. But there will never be hope if we do not strive toward peace.
However, striving for peace does not simply demand giving up physical violence. Recently, five students from my school visited the wall between the US border and Mexico. Mexico was just a few hundred feet away, but because of the conflict between the two countries, the border was almost inaccessible and highly dangerous. Many Americans resent immigrants, thinking that they take jobs desperately needed in this economy. In reality, Americans refuse the menial jobs that immigrants take; and furthermore, we are the main reason that immigrants are forced to come seeking work. The US government donates millions of dollars every year to subsidize grain production, producing an artificially low price of grain with which Mexican farmers cannot compete. Forced off their land, they come to America desperate for work, but instead, they are deported, taken from their families or thrown in jail. The US is creating a problem, but unwilling to admit that it is responsible for the economic destruction in another country. Is this not violence, too?
I may not live to see the world achieve peace, or offer a solution to the unfair treatment of undocumented immigrants or ensure economic justice for all who wish to work an honest day’s labor. Yet over time, we have seen the end of racial segregation and the beginning of gender equality. My hope is that my generation will open its eyes to the injustice in the world, even if it’s painful to see. “We cannot walk alone,” Dr. King said, “...we shall always march ahead.” Although it may seem an insurmountable task, there are many others who share our dream. They too find inspiration in Dr. King, believing that we can make a change. It is rarely easy to stand up for what is right, but the consequences will be far worse if we stay silent. I want my generation to say, “We created a better world. We stood up for what was right, and the world listened. We made the first move, and the world followed in our footsteps.” n
Madeleine Cameron, 16, is an 11th-grade student at The Peace and Justice Academy. Her teacher is Erin Conley.