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Students, State Honor Martin Luther King, Jr. With Soaring Speeches

The winners of this year's state oratory contest got a bit political in their speeches, referencing the Flint water crisis, police-involved shootings and NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.

The winners spoke at the state's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ceremony at a downtown Columbus church on Thursday, and delivered speeches that were selected as the contest winners in April. Here are excerpts from the winning speeches:

Jaxson Edwards, 8 year old third grader from Akron:

“You are one wonderful one.  You count. You matter. You are important. You are one of a kind. Dr. Seuss, the Green Eggs and Ham guy, says you have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. Choose wisely.”

Adonia Balqis, 10 year old fifth grader from Columbus:

“My first doll was a doll that resembled me. I felt special and empowered having her. My black friends do not have these options. All of the dolls will look the same. As a result, she might grow up not feeling beautiful special or empowered. She might believe the standards of beauty do not fit her. Ladies and gentlemen, even in my world of make believe, I've experienced disparity and discrimination. Dr. King did not expect us to be the champions of the contest but the champions of love justice and peace for all. So today I stand, I sit, and I kneel for justice.”

Mackenzie Lewis, 12 year old 7th grader from Columbus

“They were and I am the glory, in my pursuit of justice for the people of Flint, Michigan to have clean water. They were and I am the glory, in my pursuit for people in need to be treated with dignity. I went back to that church for one last mission. I stepped out those church doors, headed toward the Alabama State Capital, ran up the steps with my hands in the air said, Dr. King, you couldn’t speak here but I can Dr. King. You cannot face your fight for freedom justice and equal rights. But I can and I will.”

Quinica Garrett, 18 year old senior from Cleveland:

“Dr. King, our young men are dying at the hands of the ones who promised to protect and serve but whom instead damage and burn - burning the thought that racism no longer exists, and damaging the hearts of the mothers who will never get to kiss their sons again. And even damaging the dignity of the young man who lost his life because of his skin. Do you hear me? His skin. Not who he was within. Dr. King, you said that if a man had nothing worth dying for, he is unfit to live. So many lives were taken for our freedom. Your freedom stopped when our freedom begins.”

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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