If you have five minutes to spare, it may be worth giving 9-year-old Wesley Stoker your attention. Particularly on a day when we recognize the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on American civil rights.
The 4th grader’s speech won the first prize in the 26th annual MLK Jr. oratory competition held in Dallas this past Friday. It’s not incidental or inappropriate to mention that Wesley is white. The words that seemed to have struck a chord with the judges, audience, and those who were watching his winning speech today: “I may not look like Dr. King, but I believe like Dr. King.”
Wesley faced strong competition, but given the spirit of the event, all the children on stage seemed to revel in each other’s achievements. This was his first time in an oratory competition, but being the son of a pastor seems to have added some natural talent to the 9-year-old’s public speaking capabilities.
He worked with his father, Andy Stoker, on the speech of course, and together they polished the refrain that won the day. “As a white man who grew up in El Paso, Texas, I’ve known for a lot of years what diversity looks like and how we can come together as a community,” the senior minister at the city’s First United Methodist Church told the Dallas Morning News. “Hopefully, what’s on the outside somehow falls away and we begin to see that we’re truly in this together.”
Continuing in this spirit, Wesley’s winning speech offered similar thoughts: “You may not look like Dr. King, but like me, you have the choice to believe like Dr. King.”
Over 120 students in the Dallas school district participated in the oratory competition this year. In times when words from adults can often seem less than inspiring, hearing young, engaged dreamers like Wesley can certainly give us the hope to keep dreaming too.
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