The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Oratory contest invites students to learn from MLK’s powerful language, speeches

 Mississippi State University undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in a newly-created public speaking contest honoring Martin Luther King Jr. The Society for African American Studies presents the first annual MLK Oratorical Contest on Thursday. 

     Ravi Perry, MSU professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, said the contest honors King as both an orator and an advocate for social justice.

     “The goal of the event is to invite students to write original orations reflecting on their views about the slain civil rights leader,” Perry said. “The contest is named in honor of Dr. King to recognize his oratory talent and his message of social justice on the January occasion of his birthday.”

     The event does more than honor everything King stood for during the week in which the U.S. officially celebrates him. King was a powerful speaker fighting for real change. This public speaking contest not only celebrates a great man, but also allows attendees and competitors to learn from him and carry on his legacy.

     Rich Raymond, professor in the English department, said King’s iconic and powerful speech, “I Have a Dream,” was an illustration of “preaching to the choir.” Those in attendance believed in his movement, and his speech was delivered to incite his audience to action.

    “(The audience) only needed to have their batteries charged, and King did so with his stirring rhetoric, stressing the oneness of Christian gospel and America’s destiny, accepting the charge to love our brothers and sisters, letting everyone be ‘free at last, Great God almighty free at last,’” he said.

     Raymond said King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an address to skeptics who rode the fence regarding civil rights activism, provides eloquent evidence that his audience followed his words. Whether writing or speaking, MLK’s power over language stirred men and women to act.

     In a recent editorial honoring King’s address 51 years ago, the Sun Sentinel editorial board called “I Have a Dream” the most remembered and honored speech of the past 50 years for its combination of rhetorical power and heart. 

    “Martin Luther King Jr. did not read from a teleprompter,” the Sun Sentinel editorial board said. “Much of his speech was basically ad-libbed, rather than from notes he eventually discarded. It was delivered from the heart and the gut, rather than from the mind of some public relations person.”

     Not only was his speech a powerful example of good rhetoric, but its genuine spirit moved his audience. He spoke from his heart and his experience, trying to call his audience to action. “Now is the time” was not only what his audience wanted to hear. It is what they needed to hear. 

     Raymond said students who attend the speaking contest will hear how King’s speech is an example of careful, emphatic language used to bring about long-lasting change.

 “Students should learn that powerful language can affect positive change, that such language can inspire the courage to believe in freedom and to act to secure it,” he said. 

Raymond went on to quote an excerpt from King’s speech,

     “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.  Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all God’s children.”

     The contest begins at 10 a.m. Thursday, and students can contact Linda Miller in African-American studies at [email protected] or email [email protected] to register. The award presentation will be at 6 p.m., and the winner  will receive $200, a trophy and the title “MSU Dreamer.”  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Oratory contest invites students to learn from MLK’s powerful language, speeches