OUS announces 2015 MLK essay contest

Published 11:11 am Friday, January 2, 2015

The Ohio University Southern Council on Diversity and Inclusion is accepting entries for the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest. Students in grades sixth through 12 are encouraged to participate by submitting an essay in King’s memory.

This year’s theme is “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: The Creative Communicator.”

The Challenge:

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In his speeches and essays, King employs a variety of creative writing techniques to add imagery, enhance his themes and the inspirational tone of his work, and, most importantly, to reach a broad audience for his ideas. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, for example, King makes use of banking metaphors and images of the seasons. Readers from all walks of life – from the impoverished man on the street to the Harvard graduate – can connect to these everyday images, making King’s deep ideas about equality and freedom relatable to all.

King likewise draws readers into his speeches through his impassioned use of repetition. As his use of repetition gains momentum, readers and listeners become motivated and empowered by his words. If one re-reads the speech, one will notice how King very skillfully moves his audience to take personal responsibility for change. While his speech begins speaking in general about Americans, he swiftly moves to the language of “us” and “we,” embracing all Americans in his plan of nonviolent action.

Later, he writes in second person, saying, “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest – quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.” Here, he is calling on individuals to join the Civil Rights cause.

“I Have a Dream” illustrates a skillful and creative writer at work. The language is simple, but King’s message is a powerful one that continues to inspire us today. In addition to re-reading this speech, entrants are urged to examine King’s other speeches or essays.

Pay special attention to King’s creative choices in the works: metaphor, simile, analogy, repetition, etc. What can one learn from his creative techniques that one can apply to one’s own writing?

Write a speech on a contemporary social topic that would have gotten King’s attention were he still alive today. Like King, make use of a variety of creative techniques to help broaden the audience, capture readers’ attention and inspire readers to make a difference.

For full consideration, be sure to follow the guidelines below:

Rules and Guidelines:

1. Entry form must be submitted with the speech.

2. Students may submit only one speech and it must be the student’s original work.

3. The speech must be typed in Times New Roman font, size 12, double-spaced with standard margins, one side only.

4. The speech must be between 750 and 1,000 words.

5. The name, address, home phone number, parent’s email address, school, grade and age of student author must be submitted on the entry form, accompanying the speech. Do not place your name or any other identifying information on any other page.

6. All speeches are to include references, utilizing at least one book source, but no more than one website source. The sources do not need to be from Dr. King. They can relate to the topic of your speech.

7. Speeches may not include photographs, images, illustrations, etc.

8. All speeches will be judged on the author’s knowledge of the following: Dr. King and his work in the civil rights movement, relevancy to essay theme, originality of ideas and clarity of expression, personal perspective, organization, grammar and guidelines.

9. All speeches submitted become the property of Ohio University Southern and may be displayed on the website, in other university publications, or in locations throughout the community.

10. Children of Ohio University Southern faculty and staff are not eligible.

Speeches will be evaluated by a committee of faculty, staff and students from OUS. Decisions of the evaluation committee are final.


Prizes will be awarded in two categories; grades 6-8 and 9-12.

Grades 6–8: first place, $100; second place, $50; and third place, $25. Grades 9-12: first Place, $100; second place, $50; and third place, $25.

First, second and third-place speeches will be published on the OUS website. Along with the cash award, students will receive a certificate of achievement, an OU T-shirt and be invited to attend the annual Ohio University Southern Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on Tuesday, Jan. 20, where students will be publicly recognized for their achievement. Note that this year’s program is on Tuesday instead of the official holiday, as in previous years.

For complete deadline and submission information, visit www.ohio.edu/southern.