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Left to right, Interim Dean of Student Life Jason Meadows, Abdulahi Abdiyow, Brittney Sellin, Brock Beeman and President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the Olivet College Multicultural Education Department hosted the second annual King Scholars Oratorical Contest. Students were asked to submit up to 500-word essays on the theme, “Letting Freedom Ring.” The top three essays were presented on Jan. 15 to an audience of students, staff, faculty and others. The audience was welcomed to place the essays by popular vote. Congratulations to first-place Brittney Sellin, second-place Abdulahi Abdiyow and third-place Brock Beeman.

This essay was written by first-year student Brittney Sellin and took first place in the second annual King Scholars Oratorical Contest. Brittney is from Battle Creek and is majoring in actuarial science with a minor in computer science. She is also a member of the Marching Comets and Mathletes.

“So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire … From every mountainside, let freedom ring.” — Martin Luther King Jr.  To truly let freedom ring, all voices must be heard. The incomparable privilege of freedom of speech gives the citizens of the United States a power that so many others do not have.  We have the ability to speak out against and to our elected officials, to protest and use symbolic means to express our opinions, and, arguably most importantly, to speak openly to one another.

As I see political views are becoming increasingly polarized, communication is becoming just as increasingly essential.  If you allow yourself to be completely defined by a single outlook on life, it is easy to remain stagnant as a human being.  The recent push for more circulation of thought has allowed me to see freedom differently — in the way people are able to advocate for what they believe in without so much fear of being socially and politically reprimanded.  It allows two people from completely different walks of life, not to see eye-to-eye, rather it lets them come to an understanding of one another.

Where there is evident beauty in freedom of speech, there can be just as much danger within it.  We do not get to pick and choose this freedom; therefore, this means we have to allow reprehensible groups to voice their opinions as well.  It does not take much time for you or me to scour the news and be greeted with various hate groups still prominent in this world. As a white person in America, it would be easy for me to pretend things like the KKK is no longer plaguing our society, yet this is not the case.  Where we can easily see this power of freedom being used in an abhorrent way, we, as a society, have the right to persuade the minds of these people using our freedom of speech.

History has proven time and again that civil discourse is the best ways to adopt more understanding for others and re-humanize the enemies in our minds.  From King’s speech to today, we are able to see how letting our voices ring can substantially change the direction of our society. I see this freedom in the Black Lives Matter movement that has brought light to many of the adversities plaguing people of color in our society.  It is up to us — all of us — to ensure we are using this power and privilege for good. We must speak and stand up for what is right. In the words of King, “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”  The most beautiful way in which we change the world is when we hear every voice ringing together within the hearts and minds of others. America today has the privilege and opportunity to unify people and ring the bells of freedom across the nation.

The excerpt below comes from first-year student Abdulahi Abdiyow’s second-place King Scholars Oratorical Contest essay. Abdulahi is from Grand Rapids and is majoring in biology and exercise science. He is also a member of the men’s track and field team.

Due to the color of my skin and my cultural background, I have a different perspective of what letting freedom ring means to me. Freedom is something that many people fight for, not because they want rights to privileges, but because they want equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone wants to live a life where they can freely express who they are without being judged and targeted. Letting freedom ring symbolizes the freedom rights that everyone in the world has regardless of race, skin color or ethnicity. You should freely be able to do what you think is good for you without anyone else having a power over your independence. We have come a long way from the past, but we as humans still have more to work on.

The excerpt below comes from Brock Beeman’s ’24 third-place King Scholars Oratorical Contest essay. Brock is from Buckley and is majoring in exercise science. He is also a member of the men’s soccer team.

A hero fighting for the greater good is my older sister, Lauren, a member of the United States Air Force. Often, Americans do not realize how good of lives they live. They do not know how much freedom they have compared to people in other countries. My sister is willing to wake up at 3 a.m. every day, put on her uniform and train to protect our great nation. She goes out into the world every day knowing that she could go into a war at any moment. Yet, she does it for the freedom of the many that take it for granted. 

My sister is, as was Martin Luther King Jr., devoting every day of her life to ensuring the freedom of others. How many other people can say that? If you can, I applaud you. If you cannot say this, I leave you with one question — what have you done with your freedom today, and how are you going to use your freedom for the greater good?

 

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