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Essay contest asks students to put their dreams of the future into words

SC Department of Education highlights the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's 'I Have A Dream' speech during the March on Washington with writing contest.
Credit: AP
FILE - Martin Luther King Jr. addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream," speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sixty years ago, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. The speech marked the culmination of the March on Washington civil rights demonstration and still stands today as one of the most influential speeches of the 20th century.

In remembrance of the 60th anniversary of King's speech, the South Carolina Department of Education has announced a student writing contest highlighting the importance of King's speech and encouraging students to put their own dreams of the future into words.

In his speech in 1963, King appealed to the "promissory note" of America's founding ideals that app people "would be given the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

He stood in the "symbolic shadow" of President Abraham Lincoln and traced that promise through the Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which King called the "great beacon of hope" for enslaved African Americans.

King goes on to say that this promise has not yet been delivered while calling for dignity, discipline, and non-violence, urging his audience to “rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force” in their pursuit of freedom and equal opportunity.

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that once day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal.”

The essay contest is open to students in grades 9-12 in South Carolina. Essays should be written as a speech that you would give, between 500-600 words, and highlight your American dream for our shared future and how we can all "walk together" to achieve the goals you outline.

Essays should be saved as a PDF and e-mailed to communications@ed.sc.gov, with the subject line “Essay Submission.” In the body of the email, students should include their full name, grade, school, and school district. Deadline for submission is September 29, 2023; winner will be announced October 23, 2023.

The winner of the essay contest will be recognized at the South Carolina African-American History Calendar event on November 27, 2023 and will receive an invitation to the VIP reception.

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