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Clinton Elementary Student Wins 2019 MLK Youth Oratorical Contest

Feb. 4, 2020 -- Fifth-grade Clinton Elementary School student Simeon Epting was invited to Colerain Elementary to recite his winning 2019 MLK Youth Oratorical Speech. 

On December 7, 2019, the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods hosted the 29th annual MLK Youth Oratorical Contest at the Kings Art Complex.

“I have been doing this for four years now and this is the first time I won first place,” said Simeon.

The contest is broken down into 4 different divisions; Primary (Kindergarten - 2nd grade), Intermediate (3rd grade - 5th grade), Junior (6th grade - 8th grade) and Senior (9th grade - 12th grade). Simeon won the Intermediate division.

The 10-year-old said he focused his speech around the theme "Where Would We Be? Where Will We Be?" He says with help from his parents, Simeon was able to write his speech in a week. Simeon says he also credits his speech writing skills from help he got from the Clinton Elementary Oratorical Speech Club. 

The orators were judged on their aplomb, their physical appearance, voice quality, their proper use of gestures, posture, and creativity.

Each year, regional contests send their first, second, and third place presenters to take part in the state competition. Simeon will compete against other Intermediate Division winners across Ohio in the 2020 Statewide Oratorical Contest in April 2020.

The text of Epting's full speech is below:

Where would we be without activists, passion to fight for free civil rights? They marched in the day, the evening and through the night. 

The children's march was held in Birmingham in 1963. 

Kids were marching to help people be free.

The children’s march was for desegregation. 

It spread fast across the nation. 

The children faced fire hoses, dogs, and arrests. 

Putting the black kids to the test. 

The children got America woke. 

It got the attention of all the white folk. 

Today we still have discrimination.

For example, mass incarceration. 

This is the opposite of emancipation.  

If a black person and a white person commit the same offense, the black person is in jail longer. It makes no sense. 

This is not right. It is time to stand up and fight. 

Do you know where your taxes go? 

To jail innocent black people. 

This ain’t no show. 

One-billion-dollars in the past 30 years, so many fears, so many tears.

One-billion-dollars spent to jail innocent black people, who are eventually set free because they were not guilty. 


Mass incarceration has become the new segregation. 

Just like the children who marched in Birmingham in the past, today I am calling us to stand up to injustices in mass. 

Where would we be, where will we be? 

I hope you now see. 

King’s dream won’t last if we leave it in the past. 

Back then kids were willing to face a killing. 

What about us? Will we just fuss?

Or will we stand up and fight for what is right?

Reach out to Senator Brown.

Make sure he’s down for people like me, whose skin is brown. 

Write him a letter, with ways to make all of this better. 

Give him a call, speak up for all. 

Like me make a speech.

Think of all the people you can teach. 

I know it is true, and so do you. 

It’s time to advocate. 

And make America truly great. 

I have a vision for future years. 

A world with no tears.

I have a vision for mass emancipation, not unjust incarceration. 

I have a vision, for equality for all. 

So America, please don’t…