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 2021 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 18, 2021, 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: 2021 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. 


True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth…and say “This is not just.” –Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Time to Break Silence,” Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967

In his speech the night before his murder, Dr. King repeated the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan who stopped and helped the desperate traveler who had been beaten, robbed, and left half-dead while journeying along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Philosophically, the Good Samaritan has traditionally been considered a model of charity toward strangers. However, in expounding upon this concept, Dr. King challenges us that charity is not enough. Instead, he argues that true compassion and societal equity require us to remove the systemic barriers which continue to put people in a position of vulnerability and need. In keeping with the spirit of King’s words, participants are encouraged to use the selected quote above as inspiration to respond to the following:

Identify a social problem that requires systemic change, explain why this topic is important, and provide us with your plan for addressing this issue to improve the lives of others.  Examples of social problems include, but are not limited to poverty, racial discrimination, political corruption, unemployment, animal abuse, bullying, crime, and et cetera.

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 23, 2021. First prize winners from each division will be awarded a monetary prize


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.