Students read essays about equality
EVERETT - A half-century ago, Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech rang across the nation.
Kids across Snohomish County were asked to reflect on what King’s speech for equality means to them today, and some of the most acclaimed essays tell us teenagers believe people are not all equal yet.
Last week, the winning essays and artwork was honored at the Prodigies for Peace Awards Ceremony at the Carl Gipson Senior Center in Everett.
Henny Ahn, a Kamiak High School junior, spoke powerfully on how race shapes her life while reading her essay. Ahn came in second place in the essay contest.
A new immigrant from Korea at age 6, “race” as a thing hit her in her first weeks of being in America when classmates wouldn’t sit with her at lunch, she wrote.
“True, there are no physical barriers blocking the road to equality,” Ahn wrote in her essay. “In the years that followed, all legal obstacles were removed and civil rights granted to all … And yet, where are we now?”
“There is yet so much discrimination. … Are we really free from discrimination? Are we all completely equal? In the eyes of a legal body, yes. But in the scrutiny of society, we still have a long way to go before we are truly a people of freedom,” she wrote, but added there is hope for a truly equal society.
The high school essay contest’s winner Sophia Maggio, an Everett High School sophomore, had similar reflections.
“America boasts of equal opportunities and parity for everyone — but we can no longer deny the fact that not everyone believes in this,” Maggio wrote. “Again the recurring themes of racism, sexism and other forms of bias come up as people argue for fewer rights and opportunities for people they view as inferior to themselves.”
“Ultimately, we will never learn to accept each other if we don’t have confidence in our own abilities to make an impact,” Maggio concluded.
The contest was for both essays and artwork, and included middle school and elementary school winners.
Milynn Scott of Snohomish’s Valley View Middle School quoted King’s speech on her picture of King.
She only had space to include two paragraphs of his speech on her picture but wanted more, Scott said.
Most of the winning artwork included races and nations coming together, and some also included harmonious portrayals of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community.
Mukilteo elementary student Mia Zirkle quoted King throughout her essay, writing that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
King’s speech rang across the nation on Aug. 28, 1963. All four TV stations ran feeds of the speech from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“I would not be here today if not for the tremendous sacrifice” of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, one of the award presenters, said. Lovick, who became a state senator and Snohomish County sheriff, grew up in segregated Louisiana.
“It resonated with me to stay in school, get a good education and work hard. Times will change but you need to be ready for them,” Lovick said.
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