mlk oratory contest

Campus and Community Engagement, a unit of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is now accepting submissions for the 2020 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Word from the Mountain Top oratory contest. The purpose of the contest is to recognize and give students the opportunity to reflect on the words of Dr. King while connecting his message to issues facing our nation in the 21st century. In addition, participants are provided an opportunity to display and enhance their own writing and communication skills through oration.

ELIGIBILITY: To be eligible all participants must be a high school (public, parochial, military, private or state accredited home school), community college, or college student currently enrolled in a school located in the Birmingham City, Shelby County, or Jefferson County area.

 HOW TO ENTER: Students must submit one copy of the completed typed- written speech (title included). This information should be delivered no later than January 19, 2020, by 5:00 p.m. Speeches can also be submitted electronically to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line: 2020 MLK Speech.

CONTEST REGULATIONS: All speech content must comply with the following contest rules before submission:


  • Each speech must reflect the contestant’s own ideas, research, writing, and original thinking.
  • Only one (1) speech may be submitted by each contestant.
  • Speeches must be typed double space, 500 words minimum to 1,000 words max.
  • The delivered response to the assigned speech topic should last for a minimum of five minutes, but no longer than ten minutes. (1)
  • Each speech must include a title page with the following information:
  • Speech
  • Author’s name
  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Telephone number
  • School name
  • Total number of pages

The title of the speech, NOT the author’s name, MUST appear on the top of the first page. References should be included and clearly identified. Speeches will not be returned to the author; they become the property of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UAB. If selected, we reserve the right to reprint the speeches in educational publications, future promotional material, and use them at community education workshops. Appropriate citations will be given to the authors. 


“Education without social action is a one‐sided value because it has no true power potential. Social action without education is a weak expression of pure energy. Deeds uninformed by educated thought can take false directions.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The quote for this year’s competition derives from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Authored in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this text, he reflects upon the achievements and current (1967) challenges of the civil rights movement. Of note, King maintains his universal message of hope and demanded an end to global suffering; asserting that humankind-for the first time-has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty. He addressed his disapproval of the Black Power movement for advocating personal militarism and black separatism over nonviolent social change. King further goes on to argue the just need for more radical change as necessary while criticizing moderate American whites for maintaining inaccurate and unrealistic views of the ongoing plight of African-Americans in the midst of legal reforms. In keeping with the spirit of King’s words and this year’s theme, “A Social Gospel of Hope,” participants are encouraged to use the selected quote above as inspiration to prepare a speech addressing the following question:

Should schools take on greater responsibility in educating students on how to become community leaders and “woke” activists? If yes, how do you envision this happening? If no, why should schools remain neutral or avoid the topic?

ASSIGNED TOPIC: The purpose of the assigned topic is to test the speaker’s knowledge of the subject, the extent of his/her research, and the ability to respond to the question as related to the basic principles of Dr.  Martin Luther King’s message.

SELECTION: Three finalists from each category (high school and community college/college graduate) will be contacted and invited to perform their written speeches on January 25, 2020. The winners from each division will receive $200.


Dr. Brandon Wolfe
401 Campbell
1300 University Boulevard
Birmingham, AL 35233

In the prepared oration, quotations must be indicated as such. Where quotations are more than 40 words in length, the author’s name must be given in the manuscript and cited orally.

Click here to download the contest guidelines and rubric.