Monday, January 17, 2011

First Stage student wins first place in Martin Luther King, Jr. contest


First Stage Academy student and young performer Ishtar Njaaga won first place in the Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration Contest.  The tenth-grader delivered her message of hope yesterday in front of an audience honoring Dr. King.  Click here to listen to Miss Njaaga or read the transcript below:

So, let’s be honest. It’s impossible to like everyone in the room. Maybe one person rubs you the wrong way. Maybe another is just as opinionated as you are, but has an entirely different opinion. No matter the reason, not everyone in the room will like you either. But there is something we have to understand in this day and age. Even though we don’t have to like everyone, we have to learn to respect and cooperate with everyone. But why? Because we now live in a Shrinking World.

The Shrinking World theory states that because of technology and the ease of communication and travel, we no longer have geographic barriers between nations to keep us from trading and interacting. And because of this theory, every nation in the world is interdependent. We rely on one another for economical, political, and social help. We are so interwoven now, that it’s impossible to survive without another country’s commerce or help.

But working together is not the only reason we are considered a neighborhood. Religion is the second. Many people believe that it’s religion that separates us. But we must realize that it, in fact, unites us and that it is the smaller details of each faith that makes them unique. There is similar dogma between the majorities of the faiths in the world. “Honor thy father and thy mother”, “Thou shall not kill”, “Thou shall not steal”. These are the fifth, sixth, and eighth commandments from the world’s most popular religion with approximately 2.1 billion followers. And although these quotes are Christian, the same values are found in Islam, the second most popular religion with approximately 1.5 billion followers. The same goes for Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikh, Judaism, and many other faiths around the world. Atheists also hold these morals dear. And if we all believe in these same values, doesn’t that prove how similar we are?

In Shakespeare’s famous play, The Merchant of Venice, one of the primary protagonists, Shylock, says in response to the injustice he was facing as a Jewish man in late sixteenth century Venice, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?” Why can’t we say the same for all walks of people?

We are all so alike yet so different: a brotherhood of diversity. We define ourselves by what makes us unique, but we often fail to realize that we are still all equals, if not under the eyes of a god then as nothing more than humans with emotions and ambitions and loved ones.

So many have fought to bring this into the light: Gandhi, Mandela, and our very own Martin Luther King Jr. Should we not honor their lives’ work? I don’t believe we have much of a choice but to do so. If we are an interdependent world of distinct nations, then we no longer have a choice but to cooperate as a community. As a neighborhood. And as a brotherhood.
Photo courtesy of Miss Njaaga.

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