Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest


Applications are no longer being accepted. The deadline was Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, 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: "Take a stand for truth and justice."
    The theme is taken from a sermon Dr. King preached in Montgomery, Alabama, on November 6, 1956, just seven days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Alabama’s bus segregation laws. An excerpt of this sermon can be found on page 10 in “Testament of Hope, the Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Edited by James M. Washington, 1986.
    Take a stand for truth and justice “…… dare to take a stand for justice. Honesty impels me to admit that such a stand will require willingness to suffer and sacrifice. So don’t despair if you are condemned and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Whenever you TAKE A STAND FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE, you are liable to scorn. Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail.”
  • 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. 28, 2017
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. 29 at same times and location.


Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017

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. 14, 2018

  • 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.