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The Virginia Tech Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oration competition began in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. This competition is for those who love justice, advocacy, and performance. It is a celebration of self-understanding, integrity, and courageous leadership.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an exuberant and intellectual speaker. His distinct language and style made him one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. His speeches were crucial to catalyzing investment, action, and justice during the Civil Rights Movement.

With the craft and sophistication of Dr. King in mind, the two-stage oration process includes writing, memorizing, and performing a speech. This competition includes monetary awards. All Virginia Tech sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students are encouraged to apply for this competition, with four top prizes of $500.

The MLK Oration Competition is part of Virginia Tech’s celebration of Dr. King’s life and legacy.

2019 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oration Competition Guidelines

Stage I: Write and memorize your piece by responding to the MLK quotations below. Submit your 3 to 5 minute oration video through this submission form to Kimberly Williams: by 11:59 p.m. on January 6, 2019. Memorization is required but you are allowed to use two notecards for guidance and reference. The MLK Oration Competition committee members will serve as judges for this preliminary round and will notify potential finalists of next stages in December.

Stage II: Finalists will present their speeches in the final round during MLK week on Thursday, January 24, 2019, at 7 p.m. in The Cube in the Moss Arts Center. The final round will include new judges comprised of university faculty, staff, and alumni.

First place, second place, and honorable mention prizes are awarded for each academic year category. A total of 16 prizes will be awarded.

First place winners: $500

Second place winners: $250

Honorable mentions: $150

To apply for this competition, you must be a current Virginia Tech student (sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate student).

If selected as a finalist, you are required to compete for the final round on Thursday, January 24, 2019, at 7 p.m. in the Cube at the Moss Art Center.


“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

August 16, 1967, Where Do We Go From Here?


“ A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

April 4, 1967, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence


“We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

April 4, 1967, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence


"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;' who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

April 16, 1963, Letter From a Birmingham Jail

Speeches will be assessed on the following criteria. Please consider and include these elements in your performance.

  • Topic: Choose and narrow a topic appropriate for audience and occasion.

  • Thesis/specific purpose: Communicate the thesis or specific purpose in a manner appropriate for the audience and occasion.

  • Support: Provide appropriate supporting material based on the audience and occasion.

  • Organization: Use an organizational pattern appropriate to topic, audience, occasion, and purpose.

  • Language: Use language that is appropriate to the audience, occasion, and purpose.

  • Vocal variety: Use vocal variety in rate, pitch, volume, and intensity to heighten and maintain interest.

  • Accuracy: Use pronunciation, grammar, and articulation appropriate to the designated audience.

  • Physical behaviors: Use movement and gestures that support the verbal message.

  • The video submission should be recorded without background noise, music, visual obstruction, or props.

  • The video should be recorded against a neutral background, without televisions, posters, etc.

  • Dress in business attire for submission

Chair: Kimberly Williams, Director, Black Cultural Center

Luis Garay, Director, LGBTQ+ Center

Brandy Faulkner, Visiting Assistant Professor, Political Science

Craig Arthur, Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian, University Libraries

Jon Catherwood-Ginn, Associate Director of Programming, Moss Arts Center

Edmée Rodriguez-Hasler, Marketing Coordinator, Hokie Wellness

Alicia Cohen, Associate Director, Diversity Education and Training, Office for Inclusion and Diversity

Brandi Quesenberry, Advanced Instructor, Communications and Director of CommLab

Shernita Lee, Director, Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion - Graduate School & President, Black Faculty/Staff Caucus

Tiffany Woodall, Writer/Editor, Student Affairs Communications

Example Orations

Sponsored by:

Office for Inclusion and Diversity, Student Affairs, Athletics Department, Human Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Pamplin College of Business, Operations, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, College of Natural Resources and Environment, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, College of Science, University Libraries, VTC School of Medicine, College of Engineering, Moss Arts Center, Department of Religion and Culture