Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest


Applications are no longer being accepted. The deadline was Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, at 5 p.m.
Thank you for your interest.


Strengthen reading, writing and public speaking skills of students, and encourage learning and support of the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


  • Open to K-12 students who live in the city of Milwaukee or attend a Milwaukee public, private, charter or home school.
  • One speech entry per grade-level category per school. Each school should establish a procedure to determine their entry for each grade level category.
  • Speeches must be written and delivered by the student speaker. Use of notes is optional.
  • Speeches are timed and must not exceed four minutes.
  • Students must use the theme: "We shall overcome."
    The theme is taken from Dr. King’s Acceptance Speech on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 1964.
    “I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing street of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that WE SHALL OVERCOME.”
  • Student behavior should be attentive, courteous and supportive at all times.
  • Speakers are judged using the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest Judging Criteria.


Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016

MPS Central Services Building Auditorium
5225 W. Vliet St.

Check in at auditorium before grade-level category begins.

Grade-level category times (Only one entry per grade level category per school.)

K-2 8:30 a.m.
3-4 9:30 a.m.
5-6 10:30 a.m.
7-8 11:30 a.m.
9-10 12:30 p.m.
11-12 1:30 p.m.

Note: If contest is cancelled due to inclement weather, preliminaries will be held Nov. 30 at same times and location.


Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016

Top five speakers from each grade level category qualify for finals.

We Energies Public Service Building Auditorium
231 W. Michigan St.

Complimentary breakfast 8:30-9 a.m.
Speeches begin at 9 a.m.

Awards ceremony

Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017

  • First-place winners from each grade-level category deliver their speeches.
  • All first-, second- and third-place winners are recognized on stage during the speech contest award ceremony for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.