Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream," speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C.
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream," speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C.

The MLK Holiday DC Committee, in partnership with the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute Alumni Association and community partners, presents the winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest 2023. Over 100 D.C. elementary, middle and high school students wrote essays addressing: What does Dr. King’s “Dream” mean to you? And the winners are…

What the “I Have A Dream” Speech Means to Me

Thane Frederick

Breakthrough Montessori PCS, 5th Grade, Ward 4 Resident

When I think of the “I Have A Dream” speech, I think of a wish, or a hope that things will get better. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” Later, King goes on to talk about how Black men and women are still not free.

I think when MLK said, “I have a dream,” it meant that he wanted everyone to take the final step. They took the first step to end slavery. He wants people to take the final step to end segregation and to end unfair laws for Black men and women.

The “I Have a Dream” Speech means to me that Black men and women have a wish that they can be free; a wish that they won’t just be free but will be free of unfair laws. When MLK made his speech about unfair laws, things were different. Black men and women were separated from white men and women and had different schools, neighborhoods, stores, and restrooms. One of the really bad things was that the stuff for the Black men and women was not nearly as good or fancy as the stuff that was for the white men and women.

From my personal experience, I never had this problem. First because those laws have been mostly resolved, and second because even if those laws had not been dealt with by now, I would not have had to deal with it because of my skin color. I would not have a complete perspective of the other side of the page.

Something that would make King happy right now is that, he said, “I have dream that Black boys and black girls will play with white boys and white girls,” and in my life that part of his dream has been fulfilled. In my school, I have a very diverse class with a lot of Black and white kids that play together.

Even though all of this has been said, we still have more to work on, like the fact that Black and white people are sometimes paid differently, even if they’re doing the exact same job, or the fact that Black people get shot more than white people.

We can use MLK as inspiration to keep going. We shouldn’t just stop here. You and I can make a difference by going to peaceful protests, or just being nice in general.

Nathan Goulbourne Williams

Brookland Middle School, 6th Grade, Ward 7 Resident

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech of August 28, 1963, is one of the most well-known and impactful pieces of American history. In it, he outlines his vision of an America in which all individuals are judged not by the color of their skin but instead by the content of their character. He outlines a new America in which the civil rights of all races and genders are respected and upheld, and his iconic closing words encapsulate his dream: “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The dream has not changed from its original 1963 conception — that is, a nation in which all people are truly equal in the eyes of not just the law, but also in the eyes of society. This goes beyond simply legal equality, as unfortunately there are still many instances in which racial prejudice persists and will continue until tangible action is taken to stop it.

“The Dream” then was a call to action to fight systemic racism and economic injustice, while the Dream now is focused on dismantling oppressive systems and achieving equity and inclusion. We have seen progress since 1963 with more people of color, particularly Black people, gaining access to higher education and socioeconomic opportunities. At the same time, we have yet to fully realize “The Dream.” Racism and racial discrimination continue to threaten the ideals of equality, equity, inclusion, and justice for all. The recent civil unrest across the country due to police brutality has exposed the reality that “The Dream “still has many miles to go before it is realized.

Achieving this dream, however, is not an easy feat and will take the collective social and political efforts of individuals from all levels of society. It requires us to confront our biased notions of those different from us and have meaningful conversations rooted in trust and understanding. It requires us to challenge injustice when we see it being committed by someone within or outside of our community, and to create an environment of true respect and appreciation for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or creed. It is through these efforts that we move even closer to realizing the dream envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to acting individually, we must also act collectively and strive to support those

in government, companies, or other organizations that are actively making an effort to bring about a more equal and just America. This may include but is not limited to supporting legislation to end police brutality, working together to close the widening wealth gap, and ensuring that access to quality education and healthcare is made available to all people. Each of these steps can go a long way in helping to ensure that the dream Martin Luther King spoke of is achieved and less discrimination against races Martin Luther King Jr. was an African American leader in the U.S.

He [Dr. King] lost his life while performing a peaceful protest for the betterment of Blacks in America. His real name was Michael King Jr. He was among one of the great men who dedicated their life for the community.

Ultimately, there is still much more work to be done to fulfill the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. shared in 1963. And for us to reach a place of safety and acceptance for all our citizens, it is essential that we continue to push for change that is rooted in justice and equality for all.

Those of us who have the power to make an impact must use it to help bring about a future in which every person is respected and appreciated for the content of their character and treated equally. Only then can we live in a world where the King’s dream is fully realized. Therefore, we have many more things to understand, and we all have different opinions on things, but this should not be a problem although black people are not the only race that has been discriminated against and not paid well.

Justice Turner

Landon School 11th Grade, Ward 4 Resident

Have you ever desired something so profoundly, that you attempted to do the impossible to achieve your aspiration? If so, you can relate to the legendary, noble and renowned Martin Luther King Jr., who is embedded in our history.

Martin Luther King had one primary “Dream” in life, which was to eradicate all forms of discrimination, and oppression against African Americans and other minorities. To fight racism, King led a successful non-violent movement against an entire system ruled by a long history of oppression and intimidation. What Martin Luther King did was unimaginable, because most people who opposed racism were too afraid to fight. They witnessed lynchings, beatings, and other horrors of the times committed against African Americans and chose to stay quiet, but not King. King’s achievements made him one of the most well-respected African Americans in history.

As a young leader, the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in 1963 continues to be a source of inspiration for me. To me, the dream represents the idea that all people, regardless of their race or background, should be treated with respect, dignity, and equality. It means that everyone should have the opportunity to live a full and prosperous life, free from discrimination and prejudice.

Thanks to King and a few other brave freedom fighters, over time there has been the increasingly better treatment of minorities, especially African Americans. Although we have seen improvements, the problems of the day revolve around racial profiling, police brutality, marginalization, and continuing unjust treatment of African Americans. Both African Americans and White Americans are equally responsible for ending this problem. We, as African Americans are going to have to do a better job to get rid of negative stigmas about our race by working better as a community. This is going to include stopping all the black-on-black violence, gun violence, and all irresponsible behaviors. We must do just as MLK did, to fight injustice with non-violent wisdom.

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) was an American Baptist minister and civil rights activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

MLK was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, and was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He is remembered each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. was important because he was a leader in the civil rights movement, which sought to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans in the United States. Through his leadership, activism, and inspiring message of nonviolence, he helped to bring about major changes in the laws and attitudes of American society.

MLK’s advocacy for civil rights and social justice inspired people around the world and he is widely considered one of the greatest figures in American history. Muhammed Gandhi was Martin Luther Kings inspiration for doing unimaginable things he did. They both shared the same concept of non-violence, which was revolutionary, because of how it changed the way white people looked at African Americans. Martin Luther King looked up to Mr. Gandhi as a source of inspiration to better his methods of nonviolence and share similar ideologies (Stanford University).

Even though Gandhi had an entirely different situation than MLK, they both used the same tactics to achieve a similar end goal. With this new concept of nonviolence emerged a brand-new type of protesting. The peaceful protest was the epicenter of how African Americans were able to express their inner beliefs and thoughts on the discrimination drawback (“Repression of Peaceful Protest”).

Regarding my viewpoint on the subject, essentially, I agree with all of MLK’s philosophies and beliefs. When I hear the word dream, I think of someone’s desire to achieve something in the distant future. However, these dreams could all be attainable if one puts their mind to them, and work hard for whatever it is that they desire.

Me, I have many dreams that I desire to accomplish by the end of my life, and reflecting on King’s fight, makes me know that my dreams are attainable as well. Me being a youth leader automatically gives me the responsibility to go above and beyond in my community. When looking at the MLK Jr. “I have a Dream” speech on YouTube, shows the immense support MLK had when delivering his speech (

MLK had a huge following of people, because of how powerful of a person he was. When I look back, I simply wonder if MLK could have accomplished his “dream” without the immense support of everyone that put their lives on the line to help him. People were constantly at risk of going to peaceful protests with groups like the KKK lurking at every corner ( Editors). It really shows the unity that was involved in this “dream” making it not MLK’s “dream” but rather our “dream.” Looking at King’s support, makes me realize that I am not in this fight alone. I must use those around me. “Two heads are better than One!”

MLK’s dream was a motivating factor for every African American citizen to help end this racial injustice that was present in all of America. King broke barriers so we would not have to break them again.

To me, the dream is a representation of all Black people and our aspiration for a better tomorrow. The overall philosophy of our dream has not changed much since the 1900s. We still desire equality!

The present-day dream of equality needs to be focused on racial profiling that is present in the United States, which leads to hate crimes against minority groups. A prime example in recent times was the killing of George Floyd, which was seen as police brutality against African Americans. The New York Times talks about how George passed away because an officer kneeled on his neck. This is merely one of the many examples of present-day racism.

There are also several issues that are hindering the victory of the dream. One of these is the ongoing problem of systemic racism, which affects many aspects of society and can be difficult to address. Additionally, there are those who oppose the idea of the dream and seek to maintain the status quo of inequality and discrimination. It is important for those of us who support the dream to stand up against these forces and work towards creating a more just and equal society.

To conclude, the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in 1963 remains a powerful and inspiring vision for a better world. While there has been progress toward achieving it, there is still much work to be done. By taking action to address issues of inequality and injustice and working towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society, we can continue to move closer to realizing the dream for all people. This means taking action to address issues such as racial and social injustice, economic inequality, and prejudice against marginalized groups. It also means educating ourselves and others about these issues and advocating for change in our communities to attain the dream, we must continue to work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

Specifically related to me, I still believe there is much work that needs to be done present day, to create a better tomorrow. Specifically, we as African Americans need to create a better image of ourselves rather than sit and complain when we are being discriminated against. Unfortunately, over the years some of us have painted ourselves in a way that doesn’t represent Martin Luther King’s dream.

Personally, my “dream” is to walk down the street without being seen as a “threat” to others because of the color of my skin. Fortunately for us, we have today and tomorrow to change this identity. We must not sit back and wait for a leader. We must realize that WE are that leader. I must be the one to create change! I must be the Dream!

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