The vaulted ceiling of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church filled with the sounds of the Salvation Army Harbor Light Choir. After the crowd was warmed up, it was time to hear from the students. First up: Harvey Pittman II, a 5th-grade student from Lockhart Elementary.
"My dream is to fight. I know, I know. With the controversial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the fighting and killing going on in our neighborhoods I know you're probably thinking please, no more fighting! But the fight I'm dreaming about is the fight for a better education, caring families and honest politicians. My dream is for us to get off our humpty-dumpty and move!"
Pittman's three-minute speech included a rousing call to action for parents, teachers, politicians and pastors. The crowd was also visibly impressed by Kaylin Smith from Atherton Elementary, who not only delivered a speech, but also displayed her singing skills.
"I won't harm you with words from my mouth. I love you, I need you to survive. Whether you are married or not, we're all depending on each other for survival. Your joy should bring me joy. Likewise, your sorrow should bring me sorrow."
Precocious child after child filed onto the stage, gesturing and speechifying their hearts out, but no one could top the first competitor who had already wowed everyone. Harvey Pittman's Dream to Fight speech won him first place and a $1000 savings bond for college. Pittman said he got the idea for his speech from a sermon series his pastor taught, and he's been practicing for weeks. When asked how he felt about winning he said he was still in shock.
"I don't know how I feel...it's just great."
Pittman is the latest in a list of children to win the competition. The MLK Oratory, sponsored by the Gardere Law Firm, is in its 11th year and is designed to honor Dr. King and highlight the creativity of local students. You can hear the full version of Harvey Pittman II's speech on the web at kuhf.org.
"Some people dream of great accomplishments, but the only ones who make great accomplishments come true are the ones who are prepared to fight for it. Are you a dreamer or a fighter?"
Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.