RMS student places second in oratorical program

Will Armstead

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Roosevelt Middle School seventh-grade student William Armstead placed second in the Essex County 18th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Program on Jan. 14.

Armstead competed against 27 chosen competitors from the Essex County area.

“We are very proud of young Will,” Roosevelt Principal Lionel Hush said in a press release. “He’s a great kid.”

Armstead’s speech, called “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Perspective on the World Today,” is as follows:

“All that I know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have learned doing research for school, from books, my parents and family. There is so much information, and the resources share a common denominator … he was a positive man. He always saw the glass as half full, not half empty. Considering the environment in which he lived and his efforts to create a world free of violence and full of love and opportunity for everyone, his positive attitude was, in itself, phenomenal. What would be Dr. King’s perspective on the world today? It would be the same as it was when he was alive. Dr. King would say: ‘We have come a long way. There is work to be done. Let’s move forward.’

“Dr. King would be so pleased to see diversity in our neighborhoods, schools, places of worship, work and social settings. He worked hard to bring everyone together — all races, ethnicities, genders and religions. Dr. King would be proud to see President Barack Obama leading our nation for eight years, and he would applaud President Obama’s efforts to help people better their lives. Dr. King would compliment the president’s superior judgment and legislation regarding domestic and foreign issues. He would praise our president’s calm yet assertive demeanor and his constant efforts to be fair and just in all ways, every day.

“You may ask, ‘How could Dr. King be so upbeat when there are so many things wrong in the world?’ Well, that is just the kind of man he was. Sure, we have problems today. We had problems when Dr. King was alive, too, but that didn’t break him. He continued to move forward. He focused on the good and on how we could make things better for everyone. Dr. King would be concerned about the violence in our country, racism, and prejudice against our brothers and sisters who have different beliefs. He would do now what he did then: travel around the country and encourage people to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ and remind everyone that ‘you cannot conquer hate with hate.’

“There is so much we know about Dr. King, but there are facts that are not well-known. How might these facts influence his perspective on the world today? First, Dr. King was jailed 29 times. He was jailed in Montgomery, Ala., for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone. Second, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death. On Sept. 20, 1958, Dr. King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, ‘Stride Toward Freedom,’ in Blumstein’s department store. A woman, Izola Ware Curry, approached him and asked if he was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King confirmed, and she said she had been looking for him for five years. She then stabbed him in the chest with a 7-inch letter opener. The tip of the blade was very close to his aorta. One sneeze and the letter opener could have punctured his aorta and killed him. Now, an average man may have said, ‘I have had enough; I can’t do this anymore.’ Not Dr. King. Not only did he continue on his journey, but he forgave those who mistreated him, as well. I think these incidents made him even stronger. That strength would certainly impact him and his perspective on the world today. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would tell people, ‘that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’

“The most recent presidential election is on the minds of many people. What would Dr. King say about Donald Trump as our president-elect? I can say that he would already have met with Mr. Trump to solicit his support in unifying our country and the world. Dr. King believed in giving people a chance to do the right thing. He would give Donald Trump the same opportunity.

“To summarize, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s perspective on the world today would be no different than it was in the 1960s. He would say: ‘We have come a long way. There is work to be done. Let’s move forward.’”