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Union student's 'I Have a Dream' oratorical contest win a big confidence builder

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The champion of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Society Oratorical Contest credits speech and debate class for acquiring the award-winning skills.

Kriti Gopi, a sophomore at Union High School, performed the historical 16-minute “I Have a Dream” speech on Thursday at ONE Gas, a contest sponsor, and will give another recitation 6 p.m. Sunday at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, 1301 S. Boston Ave.

“If I wasn’t in speech and debate, I wouldn’t think that was something I could do,” Gopi said.

Class inspires her to think outside the box, she said, and to explore different outlets to express herself. Being an introvert, these skills were critical in besting the competition.

Gopi said the hardest part of doing anything new is starting. She had help following through by staying in touch with her advisers from the contest. She recommends future contestants do this to hold themselves accountable.

But she recommends students take a leap and commit to the challenge.

Gopi said her favorite medium is prose, which combines various elements of oral interpretation of literature.

She has a gift for memorization with a trick to commit nearly anything to memory. To do this, she breaks large pieces down into manageable passages and recites them repeatedly until they’re mastered. Those fit into the larger work.

That technique is helpful with speeches like the “I Have a Dream” address. King gave the speech on Aug. 28, 1963, at the March on Washington in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It is considered a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.

“I didn’t think I could do it at first, but if I take the time, it can actually be possible,” Gopi said.

Winning the competition changed her mindset, she said. Gopi realized if she devotes 100% of herself to a challenge, she’ll emerge victorious, like the author of the speech.

“It makes sense why it was so significant, even today, and why people still remember it and talk about it,” she said.

She shares her admiration for the society’s preserving King’s story. The competition reminds her of the minister’s historical impact.

Similar to King, Gopi is exploring multiple avocations in her life. King was a minister, writer, orator and activist. Gopi has explored the arts and other hobbies outside her main interests.

Gopi has always been passionate about the arts, including piano, classical dance and flute, while continuing to explore different avenues of self-expression. She also has dabbled in sports with table tennis and volleyball.

The oratorical contest is one of several hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Society. Sponsors of MLK Student Awards include PepsiCo, ONE Gas and Boston Avenue United Methodist Church. The oratorical competition is for high school students, who are judged on clarity, quality, delivery, stage presence and memorization skills.

Gopi earned $1,000 for her first-place award. Second place went to sophomore Erina Katoh of Booker T. Washington High School with a $500 prize. Third place was earned by senior Makayla Goode of Union with a $350 award.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Society is a Tulsa-based nonprofit that provides programming and scholarships to local youths. It is focused on honoring and preserving the works and ideals that King practiced.

The Tulsa MLK Parade, which begins at 11 a.m. Monday at the corner of Detroit Avenue and John Hope Franklin Boulevard, will feature more than 100 entries.


Featured video: "What is your Dream for race relations in Tulsa?"

We asked Tulsans participating in the MLK Parade how his famous speech relates to Tulsa 40 years later.

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2019 video: Tulsans’ ‘Dream for race relations’</&hrdp4>

<&rdpEm>Lily Colvert is a Cascia Hall senior studying journalism in the Tulsa World newsroom for two weeks in January.</&rdpEm>

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