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Prince William Students Compete In Annual MLK Oratorial Contest

The speaking competition featured students in grades 6-12.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Program was held at Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge. Photo courtesy of Sen. Mark Warner's office.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Program was held at Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge. Photo courtesy of Sen. Mark Warner's office.
Prince William County students in grades 6-12 delivered speeches Jan. 20 during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Program held in Woodbridge.

The annual competition is designed to "celebrate and sustain Martin Luther King’s spirit of optimism, public service, racial harmony, and human rights through the voices of youth," according to the Prince William County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which sponsors the event.

The theme for this year's speeches was "There Is Still A Dream To Believe In." The winning high school speaker was Norman Jones, a ninth-grade student at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, while the top middle school speaker was Emanuel Murphy, an eighth-grader at Parkside Middle School in Manassas, according to Potomac Local.

The Martin Luther King Community Choir, which consists of student in grades K-12, also performed at the event, which was held at Hylton Memorial Chapel.

Among those on hand for the event were Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11.

In his remarks, Warner talked about the life of Barbara Johns, the Prince Edward County student who led 450 of her fellow classmates  in walking out of her segregated high school in Farmville in 1951 to protest the second-class conditions. The lawsuit she and her classmates filed later became part of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 case in which the Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional.

"Dr. King once said, 'If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.' That’s what Barbara Johns did," Warner said. "A small thing — that actually was a huge thing — standing-up for something right, no matter the consequences, and changing history as a result." 

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