Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest

Thank you to all who participated and congratulations to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest winners. Throughout our decades-long sponsorship, more than 2,000 students have honored Dr. King’s legacy with their voices.


Strengthen students’ reading, writing and public speaking skills while encouraging them to learn about and support the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


  • Open to K-12 students.
  • 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: "Keep moving forward."
    Keep moving, for it may well be that the greatest song has not yet been sung, the greatest book has not been written, the highest mountain has not been climbed. This is your challenge! Reach out and grab it and make it a part of your life.
    …we must keep moving. If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but by all means keep moving
    …whatever you do you have to Keep Moving Forward
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Keep Moving from this Mountain,” Address at Spelman College on April 10, 1960. The Papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Volume V. January 1959-December 1960; pages 409-419
  • 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.

Virtual preliminaries

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020

Sponsored by Milwaukee Public Schools

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.

Virtual finals

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020

Sponsored by We Energies

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

Virtual Milwaukee King Celebration

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021

Sponsored by Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

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

MLK Speech Contest

MLK 2020 speech highlights video
2020 speech highlights
(3:03 min)

MLK 2019 speech highlights video
2019 speech highlights
(4:04 min)