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January 15 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States in honour of the Civil Rights activist’s birthday. Across the U.S., there are tributes to Dr. King’s legacy and the ongoing Civil Rights work on this day. The Gardere Wynne Sewell law firm in Texas has been holding an annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition for 22 years where students can write and give speeches in line with King’s work. This year, Tchanori Kone stunned audiences when she spoke eloquently about her own “dream” for American society and took first place in the Houston competition.

“The promise of Dr. King’s dream of improving lives of the poor and granting equal, fair access to education and healthcare has not been fully realized,” Kone told the audience, “If Dr. King were alive today, he would be part of our country’s achievements in Civil Rights, he would marvel to see our first black president, Barack Obama, but he would be disappointed by our large homeless populations, our failing schools and struggling healthcare system.” This grade five student elaborated on the dream King expressed almost 55 years ago.

“My dream of the world is to eliminate poverty and for every human being to have equal, fair access to education and healthcare,” she explained. She echoed King’s 1968 arguments that thousands more in government money is spent on fighting foreign enemies (then Vietnam) than “fighting poverty” in their own country.

“My solutions to these problems are very similar to Dr. King’s,” Kone continued, “I want all of our top government officials to take poverty, failing school systems and healthcare seriously. The way to do this is with political action and voting.” She then spoke to King’s assertion that the only real path to equality is through “radical redistribution of political and economic power,”

“I believe we cannot change things with the current politicians we have in office now, but like Dr. King, I have a dream,” she said, “I have a dream that from the sincere caring people in America, there will arise some young people who are committed to helping their communities.”

If you were feeling a little hopeless about the state of America (and let’s be honest, the world) after Donald Trump’s comments last week, hopefully seeing a young activist like Tchanori can restore at least a little bit of your faith in humanity. Her platform might be a little bit smaller than that of the current president, but hopefully her message is heard by just as many people someday. Kone 2040, maybe?

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