Breaking Down Walls: A 2012 USOE Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Grand Prize Winning Essay

Essay grand prize winner Cassidy Hills from Woods Cross High School

Essay grand prize winner Cassidy Hills from Woods Cross High School

Before I can topple the walls, I must learn to chip at bricks. How can I learn to accept the many different people of the world if I can’t accept my own family?

There was a three-way tie this year for the grand prize in the essay category of the Utah State Office of Education’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Contest. The winners are Elena Rodriguez from Alpine Academy, Cassidy Hills from Woods Cross High School in the Davis School District and Johnathan Tarancon from NUAMES High School.

The USOE Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Contest is in its 28th year. It is open to all Utah students in seventh through twelfth grades, regardless of whether they attend a Utah public school. This year, students were asked to answer “How are you demonstrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of unity in your life.” A list of all the winning students, which includes grade-level winners and the video contest winners, may be found by clicking here.

The essay that follows is by Cassidy Hills, a twelfth grade student in Ms. Virginia Riley’s class at Woods Cross High School in the Davis School District.

Breaking Down Walls

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. Our country has made great strides in the direction of his dream, but there is still work to do. I have an extended version of Dr. King’s dream; I have a dream that one day the world will become a place where people will not be judged by the brand of their clothes, the size of their home, the shape of their body, or the background of their family, but by the content of the character. Service and love are the tools to demolish these walls of discrimination that are built around us.

Before I can topple the walls, I must learn to chip at bricks. How can I learn to accept the many different people of the world if I can’t accept my own family? A selfless attitude of service is the only way to promote unity in the home. When I put my three little brothers’ happiness before my own is when I truly find the most happiness. Taking time out of my busy schedule to help with a 4th grade math problem fosters an “I’ve got your back” atmosphere. The home is the place to learn to appreciate others’ worth and how to act upon knowledge through service.

I also work to create unity one step outside my family, in my community. I have an internship at the Children’s Center, and I can think of no better place to plant seeds of unity and acceptance. The kids that I work with come from diverse and difficult backgrounds. As I serve them, I see the amazing value of each of them, regardless of race. More importantly, as they come together each day, they learn to plan together and accept each other. It is so important for them to develop this inclusive attitude early so they can carry it with them when they become the leaders of tomorrow.

Because my dream is global, I have sought out ways to be involved world-wide. As I intern at Ascend, a Humanitarian Alliance, I had the opportunity to serve in Ecuador. Working side by side with the indigenous people of Glate Packcha, I came to the conclusion that you cannot serve people without developing a love for them. Their ethnicity and poverty were no obstacle to forming genuine friendships. Because of my experience in Ecuador, I am excited to lead a student expedition to India next summer. I know that as my peers and I serve those afflicted by leprosy, walls will be broken down.

Our nation may have moved past legal segregation, but that does not mean we have achieved total equality. In every area of my life I can promote unity and acceptance through service, whether in my own home, with the children of the community, or in remote villages around the world. As I follow Dr. King’s footsteps I too can knock down the walls of racism and discrimination.

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