By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 88th birthday, students from the Rainbow PUSH Excel oratorical program showcased their speaking skills, which have already caught the eye of local TV stations and community organizations seeking to highlight their talent.
The program, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 151 East Wacker Drive, attracted numerous elected officials and city notables including Cardinal Blasé Cupich, the first Chicago cardinal to attend this event; Chicago Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell; and financial leader John Rogers, chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments.
Reverend Jesse Jackson awarded Cardinal Blasé Cupich the 2017 PUSH Excel Drum Major For Justice Award. In accepting the award, the Cardinal said, “I am really honored today by this award, for it is an honor to be associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, who Pope Francis has recognized on several occasions for his prophetic witness and his practice of non-violence.”
The Cardinal said at the beginning of 2017 Pope Francis dedicated his annual World Day of Peace message to non-violence mentioning the legacy of Dr. King “as proof that non-violence works.”
The Cardinal said, “The journey has been long with setbacks and trials and those who walked and suffered still witness there is still far to go. That is precisely why we need to come together to be refreshed in hearing the voices of Dr. Martin Luther King and in our present day, Pope Francis. This morning, they lift us up telling us the long journey is worthwhile,” concluded the Cardinal
But it was the children who stole the show thanks to Cook County Judge Stanley Hill, the man behind the PUSH Excel oratorical program. Judge Hill personally coaches children in how to speak with confidence. His coaching sessions are held every Saturday at 9 a. m. at Dr. King’s Workshop, 930 E. 50th St.
Hill, who has been grooming the PUSH Excel students since 2011 on how to become great orators said, “We inspire the children to turn their strength into themselves so that they may find the mighty, powerful, and self-subsisting spirit that dwells within them.”
When asked why he works with the children, Hill said, “So many people did this for me when I was a kid and I want to give back to others. I find that is best done by teaching the children how to speak, and speak well.”
Hill says that as a child, he spoke at his church and it transformed his life. Teaching the PUSH Excel students is his way of giving back and ensuring there will be yet another generation of great orators.
The young people who spoke at the 27th annual Rainbow PUSH Dr. King Breakfast were winners of the December 17, 2016 “The Spirit Within Us – The Measure of an Individual” oratorical competition.
Carleigh Lewis, age 7, recited Langston Hughes’ “As I Grew Older.” Nelson Simmons, 8, presented “Educate Yourself” by Marcus Garvey; Zion Nichols, 11, gave a speech on “Drum Major Instincts,” by Dr. Martin Luther King. Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech was delivered by Rebecca Reid, 15, a sophomore at Whitney Young.
As a result of their speaking ability, Judge Hill said the youth were exposed to a broader audience. Already young Zion Nichols has been sought to speak at an upcoming “I Am A Gentleman, Inc.” event.
Nichols has also been invited to speak to the children this group mentors. Hill said NBC 5 has asked to showcase all of the PUSH oratorical students for Black History Month.