"Be the best of whatever you are."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a nation to advocate for change through his compelling and thought provoking oratory. Today, more than ever, we need to continue to follow in his footsteps, using our voices, and the various channels we have to share them, to unite and move our communities forward.
The Thomas and Woods Foundation will be honoring Dr. King by hosting the Third Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Scholarship Contest. The contest is for Philadelphia high school students, grades 9-12. The submission timeline is below.
The prompt for the Third Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Scholarship Contest is:
Theme: What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?
Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave his
“What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech to students at Barratt Junior High School in South Philadelphia on October 26, 1967. In this particular speech King gives the students three 3 things that he believes should be in their life’s blueprint to reach success in life, and calls for them to commit to fighting for freedom and justice in America.
Each participant must submit an application and a copy of their speech on this year’s theme and topic. Our board will vote on the top 10 finalists. In preparation for the speech writing, each participant must first listen to the “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech by Dr. King; and incorporate into their speech the 3 things that Dr. King suggests should be in your life’s blueprint. Also, each finalist will receive one-on-one speech writing/public speaking coaching in preparation for the contest.
Email your application and speech to:
We hosted the first Thomas and Woods Foundation Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Scholarship Contest in 2017 to give Philadelphia students the opportunity to share their views on our current political and social climate. Each student submitted an essay and then worked with our board member, Gabby Richards, who was both a high school and collegiate competitive public speaker, on how to turn their essays into speeches.
The contest was hosted at Marin Luther King High School on MLK Day, where over 50 people came to listen to these student's speeches. Each student was judged by local members from the community, including elected officials at the local and state level. Through the generous donations of our supporters and local organizations, we were able to award over $2,000 in scholarship money to the finalists.
For questions regarding the contest, please email Kwanzaa Parker at
December 17, 2019: Submissions Open
January 5, 2020: Submissions Due
**Submissions due by 11:59pm
January 8, 2020: Top 10 Finalists Announced
January 11, 2020: Speech Coaching Workshop for Finalists
January 20, 2020: The Third Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Scholarship Competition, Martin Luther King High School, Philadelphia.