They Have a Dream

They Have a Dream

Students show how Martin Luther King Jr. inspired them to change the world

Compiled by André Coleman 


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What does Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. mean to you?

In this week’s feature story, school-age essayists and artists answer that question in a collection of stories and images that have been deemed among the best of the hundreds of entries in both categories in the annual “I Have a Dream” contest, sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Coalition. 

All told, 527 essays were submitted by students attending public and private elementary, middle and high schools in Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge and Sierra Madre. This year’s writing contest received more entries than ever, up 29 students from last year.

In the art department, nine winners out of 342 entrants were chosen from each grade grouping. Open every year to students attending fourth to 12th grade, entries in both categories are judged on the development of themes, organization and creativity. 

The winners were honored at a special event Monday at Robinson Park. 

The works of the remaining winners can be found at

McKenna Robbins
Webster Elementary School
5th Grade
Every January we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man without whom black people would not have the same freedoms as white people.
Dr. King was born in 1929 on Jan. 15 in Atlanta, Ga. He finished high school at age 15. After he graduated college he became a pastor at a Baptist church. Dr. King dreamed of a day when all people would be treated the same. He wanted this for his and all future generations.
Dr. King dedicated his life to ending segregation. Segregation is where black people could not ride on the front of the bus, use the same bathrooms or go to the same schools as white people. Also, white people had better jobs and got paid more. Black people couldn’t vote or live in certain neighborhoods.

His first protest was held in 1954 and many followed. People hated him; he was arrested twenty times and attacked at least four times. In 1963, at the age of 34, Dr. King gave his last and most famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He received the Nobel Peace Prize. He died at age 39 when was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

Dr. King inspires me to be a better person and the Girl Scouts is a group that helps me reach that goal. We learn the difference between right and wrong and we work on being nice to everyone. We participated in cancer and autism walks. We donate our cookie sales money to help find cures for those diseases. The girl scouts have really helped shape my views about life.

I also help my friend, Andrew, who has special needs. I don’t see him that way. I treat him like everyone else and help to show people how he is just like us. By being a Girl Scout and helping Andrew, I feel I am really helping my community become a better place.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man and without him life would be totally different. I am glad he was around to help change things. 

Natalie Brown
The Gooden School
6th Grade
I do not want to be remembered as a person who did nothing in this world. I would like to make a positive impact in my community, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King gave his life to help people. I too would like to help those in need. I would like my legacy to be that I helped extinguish the quick spreading flames of homelessness.

Dr. King wanted equality for all people. He did not want people to be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Dr. King also was a very peaceful man. He never used violence for anything. He believed in being fair toward others. Dr. King was a preacher who always helped his congregation and his people. I agree with Dr. King’s beliefs. I feel that in this day, we still need strong and courageous leaders to help those in need.

Homelessness is such a hard and painful tragedy. There are mental illnesses and financial problems that can easily cause people to lose their homes and not be able to buy food. It makes me feel such sadness to see homeless people of any age. I know of one young man I see often, and I think to myself, “There must be something I can do!” Dr. King felt this way about discrimination and segregation. He made it his life’s goal to help end unfairness. Just as Dr. King started with small steps to end segregation, I will also plan to do so in my fight against homelessness. 

I believe that the most important thing, yet the simplest, is to provide kindness to those in need. Without true kindness, battling homelessness is impossible. Another manageable step to help the less fortunate would be to provide food. Helping people to get nourishment and improve their strength will physically help them as they try to get back on their feet. I would encourage everyone to help regularly in feeding homeless people. A bigger step is to provide housing to homeless families. There are already places that house these families, but we need to do more. One of my goals would be to provide more of these homes that will give shelter to families while they receive job training and education. The hope is they can soon afford their own homes. Finally, a huge step is getting homeless people the medical care they need. Homelessness is often caused by mental illnesses. Some of these people really need a doctor’s help. Another goal of mine is to help establish visits with doctors so all people can receive good care.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy inspires me. He wanted all people to be free. I want to go further and help all people to have a better quality of life. Life has its ups and downs, but I believe down should not mean out. Dr. King was just one man but he made a huge impact. I would like to do the same. Dr. King was a Christian who used nonviolent protest to help end segregation. I am also a Christian. I believe that, with God’s help, all good things are possible and anyone can help change the lives of those in need … even a young girl like me.

Crissean Simon
CIS Academy
12th Grade
African-American people did not always have the same rights as white people in America. My grandmother, who is black and who grew up in Louisiana in the early 20th century, tells me stories about what it was like to live in the South. She told me about a time when a white woman closed the door in my great-uncle’s face as he tried to enter a restaurant. As the woman walked out of the restaurant, my great uncle, who is African American, closed the door in her face. As a result, he was arrested. My grandmother also personally experienced many instances of segregation and racism. The Civil Rights Movement helped to improve conditions for people and ultimately, all of American society benefitted from the ideals and leadership that came from the efforts of those who believe in equality.

Dr. King was an activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He dedicated his life so that people could have more freedom. He dedicated his life to something that he believed in and served others. He was a leader for those who were not able to stand up for their own rights. Dr. King has strong beliefs in equality. He used nonviolence and civil disobedience as methods to show that a change was needed and possible. He believed that people should not be judged based “on the color of their skin” and that everyone should be treated equally under the law. More than an activist and a leader, he had a larger purpose. Dr. King not only changed laws, but he also changed society and how people think.

Dr. King was hated by many people who thought black and poor people were second-class citizens that did not deserve equality. However, this did not stop his movement and he continued to follow his dream by preaching and protesting. His “I Have a Dream” speech had a major impact on America. This speech opened people’s eyes and led many to realize what equality really meant. If Dr. King had not dedicated his life for people to be treated equally, civil rights victories would not have happened when they did.

It is difficult for people to be leaders because they think about the negative consequences they might face if they stand up for themselves or others. Dr. King was able to be a great leader because he was strong minded and determined, even when his house was bombed, when he was jailed, and when his family was threatened. He stood up for people that did not know in order to stop racism and injustice for everyone. To be a leader is to have people look up to you and many people look up to Dr. King and follow his example.

Many people, white as well as black, were beaten, abused and treated wrongly because they lived their lives not knowing how to stand up for themselves or having anybody who stood up for them. Rosa Parks, like Dr. King, stood up for herself when she was arrested for refusing to move to the rear part of the bus where blacks had to sit. Her actions caused the general public to realize how wrong segregation was and that is when Dr. King popularized what became known as the Civil Rights Movement. His movement influences the way we live today.

To continue Dr. King’s legacy and to leave our culture in a better position, I stand up for all people, regardless of their skin color, and keep my eyes open to what is going on in the community. I have spoken up for those who are disadvantaged. There was a white boy who was being bullied by my peers, who are not white. I approached them and reminded them that their actions were wrong. Another time, I experienced racial profiling when I was clearly innocent of the accusations. The officers had to back down because I knew my rights and they knew that I knew my rights. Because I was able to stand up for others and for myself, we were treated with respect and dignity. These types of situations could have happened without the efforts of Dr. King.

People should never be judged, mistreated, or bullied because of their skin color or what they believe. Everyone is created equal and should be treated fairly. We can all be leaders in our communities, in everyday situations, and in changing the way we and others think so that we can all come together as one. We now have the freedom that others were denied thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all who have been inspired to serve others. 


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