While many schools only bring in an outside speaker to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the University of North Georgia will be using a different format for its events.
Robert Robinson, director of Multicultural Student Affairs, said five students will compete in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest on the Gainesville Campus on Jan. 30, giving speeches responding to the prompt, "What would Dr. King see as the biggest social justice issue today? How can society address it?" Robinson said this format allows the students to serve as keynote speakers to honor the civil rights icon.
"We're very proud that these students have an opportunity to think about social justice and to convince their peers to be more engaged," Robinson said. "I think Dr. King would be proud of this opportunity for the next generation of orators, because he used his oratorical skills to explain social justice and diversity to the masses. He took a complex issue and made it a moral issue that people could relate to. We hope this generation of students will be able to use their oratorical skills to help America make even further progress."
The seventh annual competition is set for 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Robinson Ballroom of the Student Center. Meanwhile, Robinson will serve as keynote speaker of a 12:00 p.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 24 MLK event in the Hoag Great Room on the Dahlonega Campus discussing the same topic, with a question-and-answer scheduled following his remarks tying the history surrounding King to today's challenges.
Students who reached the list of five finalists for the Gainesville Campus event had to perform a two-minute summary of their speech, submit a written formal outline of it and be judged by the MLK Oratorical Committee to reach the Jan. 30 contest. Prizes will be awarded for first place ($250), second place ($100), third place ($75), fourth place ($50) and fifth place ($25).
The Communication, Media and Journalism department will provide some of the faculty and staff to judge the event.
Castiel Dixon, a senior from Buford, majoring in literature, looks forward to competing in the contest. He will speak about the struggles of transgender individuals in receiving social justice.
Dixon, who is one of the few transgender students on campus, said King would identify with transgender individuals' struggles of being considered less than because they are different.
Alan Sibert, a junior from Dahlonega, majoring in technical theater, said he is honored to be one of the competitors in the MLK Oratorical Contest.
"It gives everybody a chance to think about what Dr. King got accomplished and the progress we've made even since his death. It wouldn't have happened without what he did," Sibert said. "Focusing on that helps us think about what needs to still be done."
Sibert will discuss voter suppression that he says has gone on for years due to "political prejudice."
"If Dr. King were still around, it would be high on his agenda," Sibert said.