Each year, the Southern Dutchess Coalition and the Beacon Sloop Club celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a parade, program and essay contest. For the 10th annual contest, the groups invited students in Beacon to respond to a quote from Dr. King: “Only love can overcome hatred, bitterness and fear. I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Below are excerpts from the six winning essays. Each student received a $50 prize donated by Rhinebeck Bank.

MLK winners
From left: Evan Pantojas, Sam Mack, Suvi O’Shea, Conan O’Shea and Syeira Kozlik. They are shown with Matt Bowen and Bonnie Champion, contest chairs. Kevin Boyle is not pictured. (Photo provided)

I love the game “Would You Rather?” You are given a choice between two things and you pick one and explain why you picked it. Martin Luther King’s “Would You Rather?” question is: Would you rather love or hate people who treat you badly?

Hate is a poison! Martin Luther King said love is a weapon. Maybe it’s also a tool, used to inspire people and change their minds.

Conan O’Shea, Grade 2, Sargent Elementary

What I think the beginning of this quote means is that everyone is too focused on hatred. Maybe it is time to start forgiving. You should always forgive and if you do you will realize that loving is 100 percent better than hatred because inside everyone needs at least a little love. One little thing from someone makes a whole big difference.

Even the toughest people need some love. The next time you see someone in distress or depressed give them some love and care.

There are so many people who are sad, hurt, depressed and angry. They can use a little bit of love. When you have love in your heart, it frees you and lets you live.

Sam Mack, Grade 5, Glenham Elementary

If Martin Luther King did not say this, I might not have gotten the opportunity to have some of the friends I have now. They could have been sent away to a different school. Some could have been sent to a different state.

If Dr. King did not say this, people could have lived shortened lives or they could have been abused their whole lives.

Speak for what is right. We are all human; we all have rights. We must stand up for these rights.

We have the right to equality. We have the right to justice. We are human beings, and we should act like it.

Kevin Boyle, Grade 5, Glenham Elementary

A lot of whites hated Martin Luther King. Like Gandi, he believed hate and anger was not the answer.

You can pick love which is a good option. Bitterness is bad and hatred is the worst. Fear is not very bad but I wouldn’t pick it. What you choose will change you and give you a reputation.

I know some people who choose hate. I know people who choose bitterness, fear, and hate and now they have a reputation for that. But once I see them change, I will help them change. This may affect my own life because I choose love.

Evan Pantojas, Grade 5, Glenham Elementary

How can you resist temptation to hate people who are so cruel? Loving people doesn’t necessarily mean liking them. It doesn’t necessarily mean being nice to them, either.

What Martin Luther King is talking about is not a “nice” or a “polite” kind of love. It’s a strong love, and, as he says, “a demanding love.” He demands human decency, instead of demanding the suffering of humans who are not decent.

Love should not be understood as a weakness.

Dr. King said in the same speech, “I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. … Every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities.” I haven’t seen those faces, but I picture a scrunched up, distorted, ugly mask over their face.

Martin Luther King Jr. did not want to destroy the violent people who wanted to kill him. If he did, he’d be an assassin or murderer. He wanted to destroy the violent ideas they spread. He saw that love was the only way to do it. “Darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that.”

Suvi O’Shea, Grade 7, Rombout Middle School

Martin Luther King Jr. was put into so much trauma and unfairness just because of his skin color, and still decided to fight back with love. He believed that violence was not the answer and would march, protest and participate in civil disobedience.

Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested 29 times for fighting for civil rights. He wrote many books about how we should fight with love, not anger. This inspired many people, and many people of all races were fighting for those rights.

We should all learn, it’s our differences that pull us together, into one nation under all. Millions and millions heard his famous speech and made a difference: “I have a dream.”

Syeira Kozlik, Grade 9, Beacon High School

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

This piece is by a contributor to The Current who is not on staff. Typically this is because it is a letter to the editor or a guest column.

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