DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Etana King, a 5th grade student at DISD’s John Neely Bryan Elementary, today was crowned the winner of the 23rd annual Gardere MLK Oratory contest.
“I’m very overjoyed and excited,” said Etana after her name was announced. “I was very determined.. I started practicing when I got second place last year. I’m very happy.”
The MLK Oratory competition has become a well-known tradition in North Texas. “We have invested in this for over 23 years,” says Holland O’Neil, Chair of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, the competition’s long time sponsor. “It’s our way of celebrating diversity, of celebrating the message of Dr. King.”
The eight finalists were culled from more than 100 elementary school contestants. They were tasked with writing and presenting original speeches which answered the question: “If Dr. King were to win the Nobel Peace Prize today, what would he say in his acceptance speech?”
In her winning presentation, Etana was passionate as she told the enthusiastic crowd, “”If Dr. King were to win the Nobel Peace Prize today.. I believe his acceptance speech would be inspiring and profound! His voice becoming the voice of human consciousness, awakening the brain and signaling the rest of the body to get up!”
“We see them when they’re just starting and they’re nervous,” says O’Neil. “By the time they get to the finals, we are bursting with pride, they are well poised, they are confident, and… you can just see what the competition means to them.”
“I’m just incredibly proud of her today,” added Etana’s father, David King. “Of course, we’ve been watching all of the work she’s been putting in while maintaining everything else that she’s doing and she’s just so focused on being the best she can be, and that’s what makes me proud of her every day.”
The top prize included a plaque and $1000. Hopefully, Etana will save it for college—the 10 year old wants to be a neurosurgeon. She says she’s looking forward to celebrating with her parents—and her classmates at Bryan.
“I entered to let people know that we still have to grow… we still have to go places because it’s not all the way finished.”