Dr. King in memory


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Editor's note: The following is the winning entry in Oak Park and River Forest High School's 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. oration contest. The orations honor the memory of Dr. King. Mychal Riley is a senior at OPRF.

By Mychal Riley

Every year we join together to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember what his message was about. We sit in the auditorium and listen to the powerful thoughts put together from people like Marcellus, Josh and Jamal.

Many of us leave realizing we have just heard something amazing, yet we walk out of the auditorium to the normal world, and nothing has changed. What we just heard has disappeared.

So this year I want to do something different: Instead of hearing me, I want you to listen.

Let's not just hear it, but let's listen to it, let it soak in; see how it makes a difference.

This year if everyone walks out a little different, a little more aware, I would be amazed.

Listening works, too. I was listening to the song Amazing Grace for the first time, I've heard it many times before, but I listened to it for the first time the other day. It says:

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Once blind but now I see

Once was blind but now I see. When I heard the line "blind but now I see" I thought about it from a different angle. The way I saw the line was, having vision without seeing. It sounds contradictory but think about it, vision without seeing. Let me give you an example.

Two of today's most famous singers are blind: Stevie Wonder and the late Ray Charles. It goes without being said that they did some amazing things and vividly put together wondrous pieces of art. Many people would say the most amazing part about it is they did it with a disability. People feel bad that they have the disability, yet I think we are the ones with the disability, and we could all learn something from them. 

They may not be able to see but they have the best vision I have ever known. Their vision wasn't plagued with preconception. Before they met you, they had no preconceptions of you. You weren't white Danny or black Lisa. You weren't little boy or little girl. There was no judgment based off of sex or race. When you approached them you were just you. You were as much you as you showed them, and their judgment was off the information you gave them. So where we always have someone figured out before we ever hear them speak, Mr. Wonder and Mr. Charles can actually get to know people without judgment or bias. So are they still the ones with the disability?

Let's imagine it for a minute, a world where we see without seeing. Where there are no common misconceptions, no false judgments. A world when I get up and speak you haven't already looked at my gender, my age, my face, and my race. Where you listen to the power of my words to learn the content of my character. A world without stereotypes and racial injustice. One where an old woman didn't have to risk her life and her freedom to secure the freedom of others. One where an amazingly powerful nation was torn in half to bicker about the freedom of a people. One where a woman wasn't arrested because her "type" wasn't allowed to sit on that part of the bus. Let's imagine a world where a man didn't have to lose his life because he wanted results by any means necessary. In this dream world we have just imagined Billy is still just Billy, Lisa is still just Lisa. What a dream that is.

Thank Martin Luther King for this dream. Martin Luther King did what many of us can't do. He saw without seeing. He had a vision that went past his normal sight. He saw something else. He saw a world where people like Jadakiss didn't have to write songs like "Why." One where Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" could apply to anyone. He saw a world in his dreams where we sit at that table of brotherhood and truly believe the creed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."  He envisioned a world without prejudice and strife. A world that we should all want to see.

Martin Luther King had a dream on that August day in 1963, and it is still alive today. It is alive in every Joshua Clark, every Marcellus Wyatt, every young person who fights for freedom. They have already listened, seen, and acted. So now I'm asking you, what are you going to do today? You have listened to what I have said; you have fixed your vision and dreamed the dream. Now you have a choice: You can take the red pill, walk out of this auditorium and pretend like the last hour of your life didn't just happen. Or you can take the blue pill, walk outside today and be one of the people who help make Martin Luther King's dream be realized. If everyone walked out of here today even just a little different I would be amazed, but the choice is yours. I have made my choice; I have shown you the door; it's on you to walk through it.

Editor's Note: Junior Lauren Valsoano wrote the following original lyrics for a song to be played at OPRF's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Assembly:

Paper Crumbles
By Lauren Valsoano

These words are part of our history,
Reflect the struggle to be free.
Look within, who do you see
Don't block it out from your memory.

Read the words on Emmit Till
50 years pass; it shocks us still.
Look in the mirror, who do you see?
Don't block it out from your memory.

(Refrain) Paper crumbles;
They say that words are cheap.
Everything seems to be.
Are you still listening?

Hear the words of Malcom X,
'By any means' puts us to the test.
A fight born of hope for equality,
Don't block it out from your memory.


Speak the words of Dr. King;
His time was short, left us with his dreams.
Keep up his struggle to be free,
Keep all these words in your memories.

Paper crumbles
As the words it holds,
Fall free.

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