Gifted Students Share Words of Wisdom and Address Presidential Campaign Topics at Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competitions

Annual speech competition pays tribute to late civil rights leader

DALLAS & HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Twenty elementary school students from Dallas and Houston ISD schools
shared inspiring words, addressing timely issues impacting today’s
society, all while paying tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
during the Annual
Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition
s held today in Dallas and
Houston. Winners included Lyriq Turner, a fifth-grade student from
Charles Rice Learning Center in Dallas, and Richard Espinosa-Garza, a
fifth-grader from Cornelius Elementary in Houston.

Presented, sponsored and hosted by Gardere
Wynne Sewell LLP
, the competition, now celebrating its 24th
year in Dallas and 20th anniversary in Houston, is designed
to highlight the cultural diversity of the community while recognizing
and encouraging the writing and presentation skills of elementary school
students. Since the event’s inception, participants present
original three to five minute speeches addressing a particular topic
that helps each student gain a better understanding of the legacy the
great civil rights leader left for future generations. This year’s
question – “What would Dr. King say in his campaign speech if he were
running for president this year?”
– prompted these young presenters
to challenge the audience and their peers to apply the valuable lessons
passed on to them by Dr. King, and to also take action and combat some
of the issues plaguing communities today.

The finalists were selected from approximately 335 fourth- and
fifth-grade students, representing 39 schools from Dallas and Houston
ISD. The events were held in historic venues in both cities – the
Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas and the Antioch Missionary Baptist
Church in Houston – and drew a packed audience in both locations eager
to watch the students vie for the top spots in each competition after
months of extensive preparation. Participants first competed at
in-school rounds and semifinal competitions to earn a spot at the
finals. At all three levels of the competition, students were evaluated
on delivery, stage presence and decorum, content interpretation and
memorization. At the finals, students were judged by panels of local
well-known community and business leaders.

“The students delivered timely and well-prepared speeches that not only
proudly commemorated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but drew
powerful comparisons to current events,” says Gardere Chair Holland
N. O’Neil
. “Gardere is proud to partner with the Dallas and Houston
ISDs to provide these bright and articulate students a platform to
showcase their exceptional talents.”

, a fifth-grade student from Charles Rice Learning Center,
earned first place in Dallas with her inspiring interpretation of what
she believes Dr. King would say in his presidential campaign speech. A
future politician herself, Lyriq repeatedly urged “America, it’s time
for a new way.” Tackling hot campaign topics, such as immigration,
foreign affairs and the economy, Lyriq made claims about what the “new
way” would look like. “Through every walk of life, let morality be our
guiding light! When we let morality be our guiding light, we will be
able to speed up that day when all children – black, white, poor, rich,
fatherless, fathered, citizen and immigrant – will be able to join hands
and solve humanity’s problems.” No stranger to the competition, the
10-year-old competed last year but didn’t make it to the finals.

Marco Mares, a fifth-grader at William Brown Miller Elementary, earned
second place, and Za’Kiah Bell, a fifth-grader at J.P. Starks Math,
Science and Technology Vanguard, was awarded third place.

For the second consecutive year, a student from Cornelius Elementary
took home first place in the Houston competition. Fifth-grade student Richard
gave a moving speech from Dr. King’s perspective,
saying the civil rights leader would implement a “Reunite America
Initiative” if he were running for president today. He told the audience
and all those who “snapchat, tweet and text” that “you can’t just
check-in, you must show up” for this initiative that “encourages
communities to seek more culturally diverse solutions to their
challenges.” The 11-year-old also shared that “as president, [he would]
stand firm like the statue of liberty as a symbol of hope and peace” and
promised a captivated audience that he would “work tirelessly with
Reunite America partners to seal the gaps of hate with the bonds of
brotherhood so that while our soldiers are away fighting for our
freedom, our communities are home strengthening our foundations.”

Kyle Mosley, a fifth-grade student from Whidby Elementary, who was also
a finalist in the 2015 competition, placed second, while fifth-grader
Brandalyn Thompson of Pleasantville Elementary finished in third place.

“These young students captivated us today with their stirring speeches,
addressing some of the difficult issues in today’s world. Their fresh
perspectives give us hope for the future and demonstrate the continuing
impact of Dr. King’s legacy,” says Gardere Operating Partner and
long-time Event Chair Claude
R. Treece
. “The energy, talent, and passion from these students are
always inspiring, and the Firm is honored to have a hand in it year
after year.”

The Annual
Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition
was established in Dallas in
1993 by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. The event is hosted annually in
conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day to encourage the community
to remember and pay tribute to the late civil rights leader’s legacy.
Gardere introduced the event to not only encourage students to learn
more about Dr. King, but to also help cultivate the writing and speaking
skills of elementary school students. The event’s success in Dallas led
to the establishment of the competition in Houston in 1997.


Wynne Sewell LLP
, an Am Law 200 firm founded in 1909 and one of the
Southwest’s largest full-service law firms, has offices in Austin,
Dallas, Houston, Denver and Mexico City. Gardere provides legal services
to private and public companies and individuals in the areas of
corporate, energy, environmental, financial restructuring and
reorganization, financial services, government affairs, hospitality,
insurance, intellectual property, international, labor and employment,
litigation, private equity, real estate and tax.


Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP
Fax: 214-999-4667

Laureen Lucas, 713-867-3248
Cell: 832-671-8787
Pace, 713-862-3279
Cell: 817-308-5251