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Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd in Wash DC
2024 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Contest
Inspired by His Words

2024 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Contest



The Ohio University Southern Council on Diversity and Inclusion is pleased to announce the Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Contest. We invite Tri-State area students (Service areas of Ohio University Southern in Ohio (Lawrence, Scioto, and Gallia); West Virginia (Cabell); and Kentucky (Boyd, Carter, Elliot, Fleming, Greenup, Lawrence, Lewis, Mason, and Rowan)) in grades 6 through 12 to participate.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Writing Contest: Inspired by His Words


1. READ the following quotations that are engraved on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, DC.

On the Statue

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."
From the "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963. The quotation serves as the theme of the overall design of the memorial, which realizes the metaphorical mountain and stone.

"I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."
This quote was removed from the memorial in 2013. Paraphrased from his February 4, 1968 sermon in Atlanta, the full quote is "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all the other shallow things will not matter."

South Wall

"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Washington National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
Strength to Love, 1963.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." -- Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964.

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." -- March for Integrated Schools, April 18, 1959.

"I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world." -- Anti-War Conference, Los Angeles, California, February 26, 1967.

"If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." -- Christmas sermon, Atlanta, Georgia, 1967.

North Wall

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." -- Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963.

"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." -- Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964

"It is not enough to say 'We must not wage war.' It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace." -- Anti-War Conference, Los Angeles, California, February 25, 1967.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -- Strength to Love, 1963.

"Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies." -- New York City, April 4, 1967.

"We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs 'down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'" -- Montgomery, Alabama, December 5, 1955. Here, King borrows a verse from the Bible, the Book of Amos, which he frequently reused in speeches.

"We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." -- Montgomery, Alabama, March 25, 1965.

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." -- Stride Toward Freedom, 1958

Quotes and descriptions are from:

2. SELECT a quote that inspires you

3. WRITE a POEM or SHORT ESSAY (2 pages maximum) that makes use of and responds to the quote in some way. Think about how the quote applies to your own community or personal experiences today and let those thoughts guide your response. Be creative!

For full consideration, be sure to follow the guidelines below:

Rules & Guidelines:

  1. Entry cover letter must be submitted with the contest submission and MUST include ALL of the following:
    • First Name
    • Last Name
    • Submission Title
    • School Grade and Age
    • Street Address, City, State, Zip Code
    • Telephone Number with area code
    • Student Email Address
    • Parent’s Email Address
    • School Name and Teacher’s Email Address (If Applicable)
  2. Do not place your name or any other identifying information on any other page of your submission.
  3. Students may submit only one entry (a poem or an essay), and it must be the student’s original work.
  4. The submission must be typed in Times New Roman, 12pt font, single-spaced for poems (except for stanza breaks), and double-spaced for essays (with no extra spacing after paragraphs)
  5. Do NOT include photographs, images, illustrations, etc.
  6. All submissions will be judged on the works’ relevancy to theme, originality of ideas, clarity of expression, creativity, and grammar.
  7. All submissions become the property of Ohio University Southern and may be displayed on the website, in other university publications, or in locations throughout the community.  
  8. Children of Ohio University Southern faculty and staff are NOT eligible. Please do not ask us to bend this rule.

Poems will be evaluated by a committee of faculty, staff, and students from Ohio University Southern.  Decisions of the evaluation committee are final. The committee must receive at least five contest entries for each grade range to run the contest.


Prizes will be awarded in two categories; grades 6-8 and 9-12. 


    Grades 6 – 8            Grades 9 – 12
    First Place - $100        First Place - $100
    Second Place - $50        Second Place - $50
    Third Place - $25        Third Place - $25

First, second and third place submissions will be published on the OHIO Southern website. Along with the cash award, students will receive a certificate of achievement and an Ohio University t-shirt, and they will be invited to attend the Annual Ohio University Southern Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration Legacy Awards Reception in January 2024, where students will be publicly recognized for their achievement.

Deadline & Submission

HOW TO SUBMIT WORK: Submissions will only be accepted by email: (printed submissions that are mailed or walked in will not be accepted)
1)    Submissions should be sent to
2)    In the subject area of the email write the title of your submission

3)    Attach the Poem or Short Essay as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file. Please DO NOT paste the submission in the body of the email. (Do not include your name or any of the above information (except title) on your submission).

Deadline: ON OR BEFORE January 5, 2024 at 5 p.m. A confirmation will be sent to the email address listed on the registration form within three business days.

Notification of Winners
Winners will be by notified by email and telephone.

Special Note
By accepting a prize, winners grant to Ohio University Southern, the OHIO Southern Council on Diversity & Inclusion, the Ohio University MLK Celebration Committee and The Office of Diversity and Inclusion the right to edit, publish, copy, display and otherwise use their entries in connection with this contest, and to further use their names, likenesses, and biographical information in advertising and promotional materials, without further compensation or permission, except where prohibited by law. No responsibility can be assumed for lost or late mail. Entries will not be returned.


Robert Pleasant
Director, Office of Student Services


Dr. Hayley Haugen
Professor of English