Editor’s note: For the 37th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Contest, students around Milwaukee responded to the theme, “Your Life Has Significance.” Here, we’ve collected inspiring essays of the six age category winners. The contest is sponsored by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wauwatosa School District and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, in conjunction with the Marcus Performing Arts Center.
Khaled Mohamed is in the 12th grade at Salam School.
In MLK’s speech, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint,” he addresses the importance of our lives and the impact we can make with them. Our lives have incredible potential, which we can use to benefit others. We are the future generation, and we can do whatever we set our minds to, but to put our lives into action, we have to be determined. We need to be ready to tackle any obstacle that comes in our way and continue onto our goal. Without the proper determination and perseverance, our lives won’t be able to reach their full potential. Working hard is the key to create the correct blueprint for our futures.
We can all accomplish our dreams if we put in that work. Everyone has the potential to do what they love; the only thing that is blocking them is their lack of perseverance. The amount of change that we can accomplish if we put our minds to it. We have to know our self-worth and the importance of our lives and that they all count. MLK never backed down from what was right. This set up the path for us, the future generation, to continue his legacy and fight for what is essential.
Once you decide what you want to do in your life, pursue that goal with everything you have in you. Even if it’s something as simple as being a janitor, work and commit and become the best janitor history has ever seen. There will be various obstacles depending on your background and origins, but don’t let that discourage the importance of your life. You can accomplish what you set out to do, work to the point where these obstacles are just stepping stones towards your end-goal. One’s economic situations or backgrounds don’t decide your future, it’s the amount of work one puts into their goals. Anyone can achieve anything if they try.
Don’t let anyone make you forget your worth. Don’t let anyone stray you off the path that you’ve made for yourself. We all must seek out a way to make our nation a better place for people of all backgrounds to live. MLK set down the road, and we have to continue it and make a life for others better. With perseverance, we can solve major global problems and help people from all around the world to improve the quality of life of people that need help. All of the possibilities are possible through constant work and determination.
MLK is one of the most influential people of human history and paved the way for various social changes that still impact us to this day. He set the road down for us, and now, as the future generation, we must continue to work hard and progress. Through hard work and perseverance, we can achieve our goals and give meaning to our lives because without the work, then all of the potentials are put to waste. Our lives all have significance, but without the effort, one can’t continue what MLK wished for and benefit the future of our nation and future generations.
Ilhan Mohamed is in the 10th grade at Salam School.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had one of the most influential effects worldwide, where he changed the inequality during the existence of segregation. He wanted to achieve equal rights for people of all kinds within a society that was difficult to be accepted in. Dr. King’s legacy still exists today, impacting many people’s lives and choices, and is an example for us to follow to create a life of importance. Our lives having significance can be brought by creating differences within our society, and trying our best to impact the lives of others the way Dr. King did.
Like Dr. King, step by step, we can take the steps to improve the faults of society in order to reduce racial biases and create accurate perceptions of one another. Racism has not been erased completely, but it has decreased because of Dr. King’s beliefs and ideas, such as abolishing the segregation of different races, which has benefited many lives. We need to continue his legacy by drastically spreading his beliefs, to not only show our support, but our desire to create change as well. With Dr. King playing such a significant role in history, he deserves to be remembered to help future generations.
Dr. King has also personally impacted my life because I am able to develop a perception of society and how I can affect it positively. He has taught me that equality can be a part of society but is chosen to be excluded by hate and ignorance. Everyone also has a voice, and those fighting for positive changes should be heard. Dr. King’s inspirational message has developed my character and beliefs and created the person I am today.
Last fall, an event occurred where I reflected Dr. King’s perspective and the struggles of society. It was in the afternoon. My mother and I were heading to a nearby grocery store to purchase a few vegetables. I decided that I would enter the market alone, so my mother gave me about ten dollars. I noticed a homeless African American man with ripped clothing and hardly any belongings in front of the entrance. I decided to donate any available cash I received after shopping. Soon, after purchasing, I headed out of the store, and what I had seen was unbelievable. I saw that homeless man being harassed by two white men and no one even bothered to stop and help him. They took his small amount of cash and abandoned him. Afterwards, I tried my best to comfort him and gave him the remaining cash I received. This event gave me a firsthand experience of inequality and has fueled my determination to help better society. It made me realize about the importance of making a difference within our society, which is what makes our lives important. Dr. King’s legacy might not be familiar to everyone, but the blatant social injustice is. Understanding his passion for equality might inspire myself and others to create a society where everyone can be accepted and portrayed justly.
Naama Meadows is in the seventh grade at Bader Hillel Academy.
Having a positive outlook inspires people. Being kind, joyful, supportive, forgiving, helpful, empathetic, loving and believing in a higher power also are central to people becoming all they can be. These traits have created the world’s most influential people. People are inspired by many things in life. “What is your life’s blueprint,” a speech by Dr. Martin King Jr., inspired me to be the best I can be. It encouraged me to believe in myself, to be someone and to strive to be supportive of other people’s dreams as well.
In order to be that amazing person, you first must believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself, you’re lifting yourself up and bringing your dreams within reach. Many people confuse belief in yourself with haughtiness. It’s not the same thing at all. Believing in yourself is hoisting yourself up so that you can do things on your own, without relying on others. Haughtiness is making yourself seem so high and mighty, that you feel like your above everyone else.
When I was little I had very low self-esteem. One of the many reasons I didn’t believe in myself was not being able to read until I was in fourth grade. Even though I was supported by my teachers and family in every way, I hated this about myself. I had tutors all through grade school, but eventually, with everyone’s support, I learned to read. Now I’m in seventh grade and one of the top readers in my class. Reading now is effortless!
Now, if anyone needs help with anything, I’m right there for them. For instance, when my mom lost her job, she was struggling with job interviews and the idea of going back to work. She needed me and my family to be strong for her. We tried our very best. Then it started to get better. She got a job and will move to her new job in a few weeks. People sought her out and offered her an even better job. There’s a lesson to be learned here: never give up.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech has helped me see who I am and who I can become in a whole new way. For example, I failed a Hebrew Studies quiz two weeks ago. I felt sad but determined to do better. In the past, I would have given up on myself. Now, I believe in myself and my ability to reach for my dreams. As a result, I studied hard, did a retake and got a 97 on the new quiz! The lesson in this is, even if it gets tough, fight through it till the end, keep going!
Olivia Lane-Lawrence is in the sixth grade at Hartford University School.
This year’s Dr. King writing theme is “Your Life is Significant.” I used to think I was not special and I had no significance, but his speech made me realize all the small things that make me significant like if I am outside and I see a piece of garbage I will pick it up. Or on Earth Day, my mom and I will get gloves and trash bags and pick up garbage. Our motto is: Always leave nature a little better than we found it. We try our best to recycle and use metal straws and we try to be very ecofriendly. My grandma is a great gardener, but she has a bad back so when I go over her house, I help her pull and dig things up. Another act of kindness is my other grandma has 23 grandchildren she watches . . . so the house gets kind of messy. Some days I get on a bus to her house and help her clean up and watch the kids. Like MLK I am a role model to a lot of the kids and now a lot of them like cleaning up and helping my grandma. It makes me proud to be a leader and have other people to help my grandma.
ln MLK’s 1967 speech “Blueprint,” he talks about accepting your skin color and feeling significant. I am mixed, my dad is mixed and my mom is white, so I have light-colored skin. A lot of my cousins and family members have darker skin. So, when I play with them, I feel like a lot of white people look at me weird because I am a light-colored person playing with darker people. Also, most of the people at my school are African American. When I was younger, I got called white all the time. It really upset me because I felt like I got judged on either side of my history. I used to get into arguments and fights about it a lot but then I heard Dr. Martin Luther Jr.’s blueprint speech. It taught me not to care what other people think and just be me.
Iesha Sawyer-Green is in the fifth grade at Samuel Clemens School.
In Dr. King’s speech entitled “What is your life’s blueprint?” he challenges us to build a better community. He says that we should not “allow anybody to make us feel that you’re nobody.” What does Dr. King mean? How do we do that? A builder needs a plan, tools and bricks. Each brick is important to building a strong building. If you take one brick away, the building becomes weak. Guess what? We are those bricks and without each other, we lose our strength! As bricks we are unique and special in our own way. We are special because we each have something to give. We all have gifts and talents. We all have things that make us different and the same as other people. All of those things make us count and when you put us together, we build something amazing!
So what does this mean for our life’s blueprint? We will use our lives and our blueprint to make America great again. We will start with each other. We will work together. We will use our hands to lift each other up, instead of holding people down because someone says they are not the right skin color. We will use our assertive voices to tell people that they have worth and significance, instead of using passive behavior to sit by and let people be bullied because someone else says they don’t fit in. We will not use our bricks to build walls to keep people out. We will build each other up because we all belong and have a place in this world! We can’t build if we are fighting. We can’t build if we hate and kill. We can’t build if we take away the bricks and say they don’t matter. I am that brick. You are that brick. Together, I ask us all to build the kind of world Dr. King would be proud of!
Nayeli Batista Sanchez is in the third grade at Honey Creek School.
I learned Martin Luther King Jr. was really helpful because he never meant to hurt people. He was responsible because he took care of his friends and family and everything he had. When he had fights he never used his fists, only his words. He was fair because he wanted people to be treated equally and peacefully. He was a caring person because he cared about everybody. He was a leader because he wanted to change bad laws to good laws.
Dr. King said we should all have a blueprint. First, I want to go to college to be a lawyer. I feel like I would be a good lawyer because I like making things right and I would love to change some laws. My laws would be to make people not hurt other people and to stop them from being racist. My job is going to give me enough money to travel and discover the world. I want to have a nice house to do all the stuff I need to do. I want to help people. I want to be a nicer person.
My vision is to give blessings and honor people that are sick to feel better. I will give people that are poor money so they can eat. I want people to feel good about themselves and not feel uncomfortable. I hope people always remember Dr. King and what he did for all of us. Thank you, Martin Luther King. Let’s all respect his memory.