Students’ words pay tribute to leader

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 15, 2012

These are the winning essays from the Ohio University Southern-sponsored essay contest for the campus’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

The contest was open to students in grades sixth to 12th with sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th grades judged separately.


Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. and 9/11

— Mia Wilson, 1st place

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream of peace and equality for all. He was known for his widespread words of hope and love. He played a large role in the civil rights movement, gaining equality for African Americans, up until his assassination in 1968. His belief in freedom, equal opportunity, and mutual respect made him the role model that he is today. I believe that he would have been a great influence on what happened in the aftermath of 9/11. He would have enlightened everyone with his hopeful words of the future.

In the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. used non-violent tactics to achieve fairness for all African Americans. He traveled across the United States spreading peace through his speeches and encouraging people to join him in the civil rights movement. He took part in sit-ins, boycotts, and the Freedom Riders. The sit-ins eventually brought an end to the segregation of many public facilities, like restaurants, parks, churches, and libraries. He boycotted many products through selective buying, and gained the support of many companies. Dr. King is most famous for his speech, “I Have a Dream.” In his speech, he expressed his hope that we could all be brothers. With all the work that he did in trying to obtain equal rights for African Americans, he earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

9/11 is a recent American tragedy that took the innocent lives of many. The terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, not to mention the airplane that crashed in Stonybrook Township, in Pennsylvania. This marked a terrible and unforgettable time in America’s history. It devastated many family members of the victims and had Americans terrified. Feeling the need to point fingers, we blamed Muslim Americans for what Al Qaeda did. It had us questioning our safety and forgetting our unity as a nation. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” This was a hard time for the United States but we made it through and came out strong.

Martin Luther King, Jr. liked to inspire hope in people. His encouraging words assisted America in coming together. He expressed his longing for peace throughout his lifetime; proclaiming what he wished the world would be like. That is why Dr. King felt war was unnecessary, especially the Vietnam War. He said, “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

The terrorists who attacked our country had tried to shut us down. To knock us down low enough so that we would not get back up. We showed how strong we were by rebuilding what was damaged and learned from it. If Dr. King had been alive when 9/11 occurred, he first would have addressed the loss of so many loved ones. Our whole country was in mourning from this tragedy.

Dr. King said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” These words reinforce the situation we were in at that terrible moment. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have brought our country together, telling us that we need to keep moving forward. He would tell us that we needed to recover and show them that we are stronger.

Martin Luther King, Jr. would also have spoken about the way Islamic people were being treated. He spoke of mutual respect for everyone, but Muslims were not receiving it from many Americans. Because of what Al Qaeda had done, many people looked to blame the Islamic citizens of America.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King stood up against prejudice. Many people were ignorant in thinking that most of the Muslims in America were responsible for 9/11. He would remind us that we should not accuse them just because of the similarities between the two groups.

Through King’s legacy, he has taught our country to be more accepting of the diversity of the people that live in it. His accomplishments remind us each day of the struggles that our ancestors had gone through for our freedom, equality and respect. In the aftermath of 9/11, King would have brought us together to have compassion for each other and to help us get through the sadness that had swept over our nation. He would have given us the right words that would help our country get back on top and come out stronger than ever.


— Grace Emnett, 1st place

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential people in the history of America.

He was not only a Baptist minister but he was one of the most noted civil rights leaders in the world. With Dr. King’s birthday fast approaching and with the recent 10 year anniversary of 9/11, one can only wonder what Dr. King would have thought of this tragic event and how he would have taught his fellow American to react.

While I was only a year old when 911 happened, from what I have read and seen on documentaries it appears to be one of the most tragic and horrific acts of terrorism to befall any nation. Many innocent people lost their lives that day. However, through the loss and devastation, I also heard of many acts of compassion and heroism. It is compassion and heroism that I think Dr. King would be proud of all the people who risked their lives to save others. Even though Martin Luther King Jr. would not agree with what the terrorists did, I think he would say that you should not judge all Muslim people based on the actions of a few.

I believe that Dr. King would have encouraged Americans to rise up in prayer and thanksgiving. He would have told us to pray for our fellow man and show forgiveness to those who have wronged us. He would have encouraged us to show kindness and compassion to all peoples regardless of their religion or nationality. He would have asked Americans to offer hope to the rest of the world.

Dr. King understood through his work with the civil rights movement the types of prejudice that would be sure to follow an event like 9/11. I do not think that Dr. King would have wanted American to wage a war on Osama Bin Laden. Dr. King was a very loving, caring and peaceful person. I do not think he would have wanted to seek the type of revenge that many Americans wanted at the time. I believe that he would have tried to a way to understand the reasons behind the attacks. Dr. King would have sought to find answers before judgment.

Being that Dr. King was such a peaceful man, I do not think that he would have agreed with the war. I think that he would have tried to sit down with the leaders of all nations to find some peaceful solution. I think that he would have showed our nation that good can come from such evil; we just have to be willing to look.

While the civil rights movement and the terrorist attacks of 911 are completely separate events, many of the actions closely paralleled each other. Both events were highly emotional and aroused a sense of anger in some while instilling patriotism in others. If nothing else, I think Dr. King would have found that the nations sense of patriotism overwhelming. While the events of 911 seemed to bring the people of the United States together, it also stirred prejudice in others. I believe that Dr. King would have use the civil rights movement as an example of how a nation can tear itself apart if they are not careful.

Part of what makes our nation great, is the fact that we embrace so many different people and cultures. We pride ourselves on being one of the few countries that have freedom to express ourselves and freedom to follow the religion we choose. While bigotry still exists, we have the opportunity to be who we are without fear of oppression. This is one of the ideals that Dr. King held very close to his heart. He believed that good and love could overcome any evil set forth by man.

Dr. King did not view going to war as a way to solve problems. Dr. King frequently spoke out about war and many of the social ills of Washington.

In his speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in 1967, King said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

I think he would have understood that war was a necessary evil in order to protect the rights of all people who have chosen to live in America. I do think that Dr. King would have been deeply saddened by the amount of lives lost on all side of this terrible conflict. I think he would have disagreed with the cheers when Osama Bin Laden was killed. Being a true man of God, Dr. King valued every person and tried to teach the rest of the nation that every person has worth and should be valued.

I feel that the events of 9/11 would have been a very teachable moment for Dr. King. I think Dr. King would have reminded not only the Americans but the world how easy it is to lose your way. How must continually strive for truth and justice for all people. We must live our lives by example.


King’s Vision of America in the Aftermath of 9/11

— Saige Fields, 2nd place

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist in the civil rights movement for African-American people in the United States. He was instrumental in organizing rallies and demonstrations throughout the country, trying to raise awareness that African-American men and women should receive equal rights and treatment.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life was cut short by an assassin who shot Dr. King in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Dr. King was in Memphis in support of striking African-American sanitation workers who were being treated unfairly. King’s last speech known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” was delivered there. The death of Dr. King was devastating to the African- American nation, because they lost a wise and experienced leader.

There have been many events that have taken place since the death of Dr. King. The advancements in civil rights have progressed. In spite of this, there is still prejudice. I believe Dr. King would be very pleased with many advancements, but also still displeased with others.

As he was himself an African-American, his cause was to bring equality to this group. The issue today goes beyond this group, however. I think if Dr. King were alive today, he would continue to seek the advancement of African-Americans, but would also be looking for equality as a whole in our country.

The most prominent event in recent history is the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Centers. This act of terrorism on American soil illustrated the prejudice and hatred that still exists.

Although the prejudice may have shifted to other groups, this type of injustice is no different than what Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders were fighting for during his lifetime. They were simply seeking to bring justice where it was not seen. Dr. King would have been a valuable resource of wisdom if he were with us as we deal with this recovery time. His insight for patience and seeking to inspire people in the right way would help the country’s younger leaders who have never had to deal with prejudice on this level.

I believe the message Martin Luther King, Jr. would share today would be no different than the one he shared in his “I Have a Dream” speech. The only thing that would change would be the participants. As Dr. King was seeking to bring peace and harmony to the Caucasian and African-American races, he would share the same message with the Muslim extremists and the free Christian world.

He would want the Muslim, the Jew, and the Christian to be able to sit down and discuss things with mutual respect and dignity. I believe he would want children of all races and faiths to be able to play happily and love one another. This was the basis of his message of hope and he dedicated his life to share it.

In spite of all of the issues that Dr. King’s people faced, he still saw America as a great country. He believed that this country and people working together had the ability and the power to change things in a positive way. In the years since 9/11 Dr. King would be calling for people to remember and see what can happen if we do not embrace one another as we are, and allow prejudice and hatred to reign.

I believe he would call for our countries leaders, in government and in the churches, to reach out to one another and accept each others’ differences. He would encourage us to accept these differences as strengths and not negatives. To see that it is accepting these differences that allows us to be diverse and strong, rather than everyone being just alike.

I also believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. would call on the United States as a Christian nation to embrace Christian principles in loving one another. Knowing how he went about seeking to bring change in the civil rights era, I feel confident that he would continue in the same manner.

He would join and lead the group where injustice is seen. He would stand up and be strong in sharing his opinion as to what is right, in spite of others opinions. He would also encourage all of us to embrace who we are and be proud of this fact.

These values and actions will support and turn our diversity into strength, rather than creating prejudice.


I Have A Dream

— Cole Lowery, 2nd place

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga. He went to high school at Booker T. Washington High School. He met and married Coretta Scott and had two sons and two daughters. In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

People thought he was a leader of the civil rights movement for the entire black race including around the world. Martin Luther King would tell his feelings to who ever would listen. On August 28, 1963 he gave his speech “I Have A Dream” at the Lincoln Memorial. On April 4, 1968, he was killed standing on his balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He was there to have a protest with the City of Memphis garbage workers.

In 1966 the World Trade Center was starting to be built, but on September 11, 2001 the Twin Towers fell because the terrorists flew into the Trade Centers with two airline planes. I was one year old and my dad had just put me down for my morning nap. He had just gotten off work from the fire station.

My dad and my older brother were watching the terrorist act live on television. He told me that this was the first time that a terrorist act was live for all to see from home.

The Pentagon was also hit that day along with an airliner that went down in Pennsylvania. Experts think that the airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania was forced down by the passengers trying to stop the terrorists.

The black box that was recovered from the crash site had audio recordings that led the investigators to believe that the passengers rushed the cockpit because they knew it was going to be flown into the White House. I don’t remember much about that day but today I do know that 2,819 people in total died, including 343 firefighters and 60 policemen.

Martin Luther King once said if he died he would want people to say at his funeral, “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

“I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

“I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter”.

I think Martin Luther King would try to bring people together by separating Americans from terrorists and not include all Americans Muslims as terrorists. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive people separated Americans as black and white. His dream was that all people would be equal, not judged by their race or religion.

I believe if he were alive today he would give several speeches about 9/11 and about the people that died. He would pray for all Americans and American Muslims. He would give speeches about how Muslims worldwide are not all terrorists. I think that Martin Luther King would feel sad for all the people that lost their lives that day. I think he would have tried to spread peace and not war.

I also think that he would still preach about “hope”. People today are better about not judging others by their race. He would think Americans have come a long way in their thinking. He would have “hope” that we as Americans could continue to change and not judge one another by what a person thinks or believes.

My grandmother shared with me about when she lived in South Carolina in the 1950’s. She and my grandfather moved there because he had joined the Air Force. She remembers at the hotel where she worked there were separate restrooms for black and white people. Each door had a sign that said “Whites Only” and “Coloreds Only.” My grandmother, even at that time when other people believed this, she did not. She felt very badly about this, but could not do anything about it. The manager was very strict with this rule.

I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. would want us today to be sensitive with everyone. We would need to be sensitive about accepting that others can believe differently than me. He would also expect us to have a mutual respect for one another. He would like to see people accepting differences in one another.

I know he would not want to see people burning down churches just because they didn’t believe the way they wanted them to.

As an 11 year old, I have many friends who are different from me. That is OK and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be glad to see this. Many of my friends feel the same way. We try to treat everyone equal and be kind to each other. This is the way the world should be. For now, I will do my part.


Third place essays will be printed in an upcoming edition.