Originally published in DePaul Magazine.
Sophomore Yara Ismail, who is majoring in Public Relations and Advertising and minoring in Communication and Media, is the 2016 winner of DePaul’s the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Speech Contest. On Jan. 19, Ismail read her speech during the university’s annual prayer breakfast in honor of King. The full text of the speech can be found below.
On Sept. 27, 1660, St. Vincent de Paul died with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toulouse and a master’s from the University of Paris. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died with a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a doctorate degree from Boston University. The educational backgrounds of two of the most influential leaders in the fight for social justice and equality are no coincidence. The diplomas found in St. Vincent de Paul’s belongings and the educational accomplishments of Dr. King serve as a symbol and reminder that our education is the strongest ammunition we have in our nonviolent fight against injustices present in today’s society.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy exemplifies resilience, persistence and determination. Today, we look at his attributes in order to find strength and motivation in troublesome times. We look for his resilience as hundreds are arrested for peacefully protesting the deaths of their own. We look for his persistence as our justice system fails to serve and protect anyone but its own, time after time. We look for his determination to help us gather the strength to act on the wrongs we see before our eyes. The rigorous fight began with Dr. King but it is far from over. His legacy has helped shape the foundation of organized protests, boycotts and activism. With our education as our weapon, we must take what we learn and utilize it to foster the changes Dr. King once dreamed of.
Dr. King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” At a time where many of our lives feel like they are just beginning, we must not forget to remember those whose lives are ending due to injustices that Dr. King fought against half a century ago. Our education is the key to many doors in life. We must use the key to open doors of dialogue, change and acceptance while locking the doors of hate and injustice in our world.
Throughout my time at DePaul, I have been privileged to voice my opinions and make a change through leadership roles. I have had the opportunity to be a Chicago Quarter Mentor, helping first-year students learn about important social topics throughout their transition to college. I have also recently been selected to be a part of the Vincentian Heritage Tour to Paris, where I will follow in St. Vincent de Paul’s footsteps in order to live through his experience of activism and serving the marginalized. I am also part of DePaul’s Community Service Association, where I work directly with those facing injustices. My different experiences have helped me understand the importance of socially responsible leadership in the process of change and awareness.
With Dr. King’s vision in mind, I plan to keep his dream alive through continuing my education. With a career in public relations, I will have the power to influence wide audiences utilizing different key messages for a variety of organizations. I would like to use my career to begin integrating the idea of corporate social responsibility into many of the programs I work on. Through my education, my eyes have been opened to the many different realities of the world. I hope to help open the public’s eyes by raising awareness of the business aspect of society. Not many of us realize the impact we can make on social justice in our everyday lives. I believe that the education I was afforded is my strongest ammunition, and I plan to use it to fight back just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once did.