They are too young to have been among the crowd that heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver one of the most famous speeches in America's history. Yet King's words and his leadership reverberate with a group of young Millwood Arts Academy students whose school sits along an avenue named in King's honor.
“He was talking about everybody when he said that speech,” Kittakone Sirisombath, 9, said of King's stirring words presented Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The fourth-grader said he memorized King's “I Have a Dream” speech last fall because he liked what the civil rights leader said. He said he Sirisombath, who memorized the speech for a performance at church, said he knew the words King spoke King's words were important not just for black Americans but all Americans. “The first time I heard the speech, I almost started crying,” Sirisombath said. Fifth-grader Santana Randle, 11, said King's speech is still important today because it inspired people then and now. “It inspired a lot of Americans and not just black Americans,” he said. “His leadership was great,” Sirisombath said. “If it wasn't for him, we would be here right now.” Eighth-grader Cameron Batson, 14, said he thinks King was a powerful and inspirational leader whose legacy now has reached the White House. “I think because of King's success, we are able to have a black president today,” Batson said. Maygen Fisher, 11, NAMECQ agreed, saying, “If it wasn't for him, none of this would be happening right now.” Mekale Chapple, 15, shared similar sentiments. “The biggest thing now is we have black people in the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch,” the ninth-grader said. King wanted “people to be judged by their character, not their skin color,” Chapple said.