Children's Writings Help Keep `the Dream' Alive Scott Air Force Base Contest Revives King's Legacy

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He believed that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, or what they look like from the outside, but for how they really are from the inside. From a Birmingham jail, he wrote: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Kristina Hill, Grade 5 Scott North Elementary School

If we have tolerance, there would be no need to fight and have violence. With tolerance, there wouldn't be gangs trying to kill people for little things. There wouldn't be prejudism. Ericka Dennis, Grade 5 Scott North Elementary School

THIS WAS Army Lt. Col. Samuel Taylor's dream - to teach almost 2,000 youngsters about another man with a dream. Earlier this month, it turned to reality.

The children crowded into the gymnasiums of three elementary schools to talk with the soldier not about war but instead about peace and nonviolence and tolerance. They talked about what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream meant to them.

Taylor and Navy Lt. Commander Ron Evans organized the program, which they described as "keeping alive Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of a tolerant and nonviolent society." It was part of Scott Air Force Base's celebration of African-American Heritage Month.

The children worked on the project at their elementary schools, Scott North, Scott South and Mascoutah Sixth Street. Most of the students are white, but the three schools are racially integrated.

More than 175 youngsters won awards for their work at ceremonies at the schools. The children, many of whom live at Scott or in nearby Mascoutah, read poems and essays they had written and proudly displayed their crayon-colored pictures.

To encourage participation, Taylor had told parents and teachers: "We have arguably become a less tolerant society since Dr. King told the world of his dream. The fact that we have a more violent society is indisputable."

Taylor said he wanted to do the program so "we can use art, poetry and essay contests to remind the children of how toleration and love must replace hatred and violence, if we are to live in harmony and peace." Taylor said he wanted the children to know how to get along with people who are different than they are.

Second grader Mark Yount at Scott South used crayons to show how he felt. His picture showed a white child and a black child talking outside in the park with a benevolent smiling sun smiling behind them in a blue sky.

"Want to be friends?" asks the black child.

"Sure," answers the white child.

Other youngsters drew pictures of athletes Jackie Joyner Kersee and Michael Jordan achieving their dreams.

Fourth-grader Kevin Rayford at Mascoutah already had learned about King from his parents. "He was a great African-American leader," said Kevin, who won a bronze medal for his entry. Dr. King was "a gentle person, a nice gentleman to other people and was a good civil rights leader."

Kevin's friend, Alex Schubert, was thrilled to win a gold prize for his entry. Gold winners earned Olympic-like medallions tied on American flag ribbons. "I won the Olympics," Alex shouted with glee.

What did he learn to get his award?

"That everybody should be equal and everybody should be treated the same," Alex said.

Third-grader Tony Trotter, a Scott South pupil and medal winner, talked about misconceptions some people have. …