Student Affairs announces winner of Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest


Photo courtesy of Darrell Brown

President Hurley presenting winner, Kasey Jones, with a Core Value coin after the presentation of her MLK speech to the President’s Cabinet on March 22, 2021.

During the month of February, the encouragement of students to join organizations and speak their mind on issues within the black community is heightened in spirit of Black History Month. Each year, students of all races and backgrounds are asked to speak their truth about influential black men and women in history. The Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest is another opportunity for students to unlock their inner activist.
For this year’s MLK Speech Contest, contestants were asked to prepare a speech about serving on the front lines of injustice and having mercy to help others along their journey.
“When I heard someone say ‘Drum Major for Justice and Mercy’, I thought this was related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his journey. He was drum major, someone out front taking the lead to bring attention to civil rights. He was for non-violence and justice,” Executive Director of Student Affairs Outreach, Darrell Brown said.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong advocate for peaceful protesting.
“Mercy, take consideration of all people before you immediately begin to pass judgment especially due to the color of their skin. This is what the topic means to me, but it can take on various meanings depending on the person who wants to explore and correlate Dr. King Jr.‘s fight for freedom,” Brown said
This contest allows students to speak their voice in the same way that Dr. King would.
“Keep in mind, Dr. King Jr. preached a sermon on ‘The Drum Major Instinct’’ which ended with ‘say I was a drum major for justice. I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.’ And nothing else matters. I believe this was his charge to us to ‘serve’. Let’s have mercy and help someone along the way,” Brown said.
After only having two contestants signed up for the event, the registration date was extended to Feb. 15 and the presentation was pushed back to Feb. 19 due to the winter storm. The battle to reach out to the student body was a mission all on its own. The registration deadline was then moved to March 1, at 5 p.m. and the speech contest presentation was moved to March 4, 2021.

“In order to provide students from the satellite campuses, as well as the students who are taking classes while at home during the pandemic, we didn’t want anyone to not be able to participate because they could not be on campus. The hopes were to reach out to various Civic Organizations and if they wanted to hear this speech as part of a community program, we would schedule this opportunity. We do have a group called the Town and Gown Advisory Committee in Student Affairs and I would highly recommend the students’ speech be shown to that group of community leaders. The judging would depend on whether the student was face to face or by Zoom. This would be decided once we visited with each contestant. We would be flexible due to the contestants location,” Brown said.
This year, Dr. James Hurley, Tarleton’s 16 president, presented a coin of Core Values to Kasey Jones, the winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest. After delivering her speech to the President’s cabinet, Jones was honored with the Core Values coin. Alongside that honor, she was awarded a $750 scholarship and the opportunity to deliver her speech to a panel of judges as well as important members of the school board.
“This contest is important because I believe it gives students an opportunity to conduct their own research on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Knowing your history and understanding the struggles that took place years ago and even now will and should help us become appreciative of the efforts and challenge us to continue the push for equality,” Brown said.
The MLK Speech contest not only allows students to unlock their inner activist but it also encourages students to engulf themselves in the African American culture year-round. Congratulations Kasey Jones!