I’m a Tulsa Kid: Cornelius Johnson

Memorial High School –“I Have a Dream” Speech Winner

Memorial High School freshman Cornelius Johnson was the 2012 winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr.  Oratorical Contest. Cornelius received a cash award of $500 from ONEOK, sponsor of the oratorical contest, for his presentation of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In January Cornelius delivered the speech at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Commemorative Service held at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church. Cornelius’ favorite subject in school is English and he enjoys singing, drawing and writing.

Q: Why did you decide to challenge yourself with memorizing the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech?

A: I knew if I could memorize this speech, then I could memorize anything else.

Q: How do you go about memorizing such a long piece and how long did it take you?

A: I learned it by memorizing each section and repeating it over and over again. It took me about five days to learn the entire speech.

Q: How did you learn the visual mannerisms of Dr. King when he was giving the speech?  Did you watch a video?

A: My Memorial speech coach and teacher Mrs. Wright helped me with the mannerisms. She also assigned me a Student Coach, Shay Young, to help me when Mrs. Wright was teaching. It was really cool because Mrs. Wright taught both Shay and me and, in turn, Shay was able to teach me as well as Mrs. Wright…it’s like I received a triple-dose of Wright, Wright and Mini-Wright.

Yes, I watched the video. I felt that it was important to see and hear Dr. King in order to really capture all of the urgency and emotional impact.

Q: How did learning the speech change you and your thoughts on civil rights? 

A: It gave me a better perspective of the people during that time and their feelings on being free. It opened my eyes to see that my generation is privileged to live in this day and time.

Q: What are your future plans when it comes to utilizing your skills in speech?

A: Mrs. Wright has “voluntold” me that I will be doing more speeches. I am very happy about this. I’m excited to take advantage of any opportunities given to me!

Categories: Teens, Tweens & Teens