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Tyrone High School students hear Martin Luther King speech

At 8:15 a.m. yesterday, Tyrone Area High School students celebrated the 24th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day as they listened to three ninth graders read the closing excerpts from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, over the school’s public address system.
Freshman Daniel Benson, Brice Barrett and Travis Johnson delivered the final part of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as about 600 students listened in their separate classrooms. Benson, Barrett and Johnson are students in ninth grade English classes taught by Richard Merryman.
In preparation for this public speaking performance by three students, Merryman’s ninth grade pupils practiced reading portions of King’s speech aloud. As they read orally, with the guidance of their teacher, students researched the story behind King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King delivered his celebrated oration on August 28, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to a crowd of about 200,000 people. Because of this 1963 speech, Time Magazine named him “Man of the Year”. In 1964, King became the youngest person ever awarded The Nobel Peace Prize.
As they rehearsed, students immediately recognized the repetitions of key words, phrases and sentences in the speech such as “I Have a Dream”. Next, students realized the many allusions or references that Dr. King made in his speech to documents important in the history of America. These documents included the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, as well as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and his Gettysburg Address.
Besides important historical documents, Reverend King also included references to the book of Psalms, the prophets Amos and Isaiah from the Bible, as well as a patriotic carol and an African-American spiritual. Finally, students recalled the comparisons used by Preacher King which guaranteed that his speech would sound more colorful. These comparisons included “mountain of despair” and “symphony of brotherhood”.
Performing Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in ninth grade English class as well as over the public address system allows Tyrone Freshman an opportunity to polish their speaking skills. During their class and school-wide performances, ninth graders enhance their voice volume, voice expression, voice speed, punctuation pauses, pronunciation clarity, eye contact and body posture. Long after ninth grade fades into memory, students will use the speaking skills they practiced there when they talk in college, in the military, at work and in clubs around their community.
In closing ninth grade English teacher and Tyrone speech coach Richard Merryman justified the activity in this way, “Across the years, some of our Tyrone graduates have indicated to the Tyrone School Board that they wish Tyrone High had provided them with more practice in public speaking. With that request in mind, our Tyrone speech team has instituted a series of public address system speaking performances that will provide more students with speaking experience.
“Our speech team decided to organize these speaking performances around school year holidays that would include Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Saint Nicholas’ birthday, Martin Luther King Day, Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Baseball opening day and Memorial Day. For these holidays, members of the Tyrone speech team perform a brief poem or passage related to the holiday on the public address system for all students to hear.”
Finished Merryman, “Our Tyrone speech team takes pride in the fact that they are the oldest team in the school, having begun with some wartime debates against Huntingdon High School in 1914. However, we cannot rest on those laurels. Instead, the speech team hopes to inspire other students about ways that everyone can improve their speaking skills.”