DALLAS, Jan. 13, 2006 – With Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the horizo…

DALLAS, Jan. 13, 2006 – With Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the horizon, school children in Austin, Dallas and Houston chose to celebrate the life of the extraordinary civil rights leader in a unique way. This week, inspiring young speakers in these cities competed in the finals of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, sponsored by the law firm of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. The Austin competition was held on Wednesday, Jan. 11, the Dallas competition on Thursday, Jan. 12, and the Houston event took place on Friday, Jan. 13.

The winner of the inaugural Austin competition was 10-year-old Alenzia McKinney from L.L. Campbell Elementary. In her winning speech, Alenzia thanked Dr. King for providing her with hope for the future.

Bre’Ana Offord of H.S. Thompson Learning Center placed first in the Dallas Gardere MLK Oratory Competition for the second consecutive year. The 12-year-old once again dazzled the judges, this year with a speech about dreams fulfilled and the importance of continuing to dream. “Dream on! Your dreams are your future not realized. Your desire is your master,” she told the audience.

In Houston, 11-year-old Shyrian Brown from Julius N. Dodson Elementary beat out nine other talented students to win the 2006 competition. Her speech noted the progress that African-Americans have made, but how far we all still have to go to make Dr. King’s dream of peace and unity a reality. This was the third consecutive year that a student from Dodson has taken top honors.

“This year’s topic of ‘If Dr. King were alive today, what would he say about where we are?’ afforded students an opportunity to reflect on the principles of Dr. King as well as the need to continue to promote his mission of love and respect among all men,” says Claude Treece, Gardere’s operating partner. “Our goal is to help the students see the possibilities for their own lives and how everyone can make a difference, no matter the color of their skin.”

Gardere introduced the competition 14 years ago in Dallas to celebrate the city’s diversity and promote awareness and understanding of different cultures. The event’s success led to the establishment of the competition in Houston in 1997. This was the first year for the Austin event. The oratory competition, which is held annually in conjunction with the national holiday recognizing the late civil rights leader, encourages the local community to remember and pay tribute to Dr. King’s leadership and legacy.

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students from participating schools in Austin, Dallas and Houston presented personally written speeches commemorating Dr. King’s vision of peace and unity based on this year’s theme. In order to qualify for their city’s final competition, students competed in a preliminary round at each participating school before advancing to the finals. The young speakers are judged on the context of their speech, memorization, and their overall performance. All finalists will receive college savings bonds.

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