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Statewide Oratorical Contest

In line with Governor Mike DeWine’s recent orders regarding public health and safety, we have postponed the upcoming 21st Annual Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest originally scheduled for April 3. We appreciate that students, as well as family members and coaches, have worked hard to reach the state level of competition and encourage you to continue practicing as we hope to reschedule as soon as advisable. We will continue to monitor the situation, and provide you with additional information regarding the contest as we have it.

Please continue to check the Ohio Department of Health website ( and follow their social media pages for updated COVID-19 information.

Until then, we hope you and your families continue to be well.

The Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission is committed to educating children about Dr. King's legacy of brotherhood among all people.  The 2020 contest marks the 21st anniversary of the statewide oratorical contest which the state Holiday Commission adopted in 1999. The contest has a total of four divisions: primary (grades kindergarten-2); intermediate (grades 3-5); junior (grades 6-8); and senior (grades 9-12).

The 2020 statewide oratorical contest will be in Columbus, Ohio. The theme is “Where Would We Be? Where Will We Be?” This theme allows contestants an opportunity to reflect on where we, as a society, would be without Dr. King; as well as how they are part of the solution moving forward.

Each year, regional contests send their first, second and third place presenters to take part in the state competition. This year's regional contests includes: Akron (Summit County), Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, Marion-Morrow-Knox Tri-County, and Southeastern Ohio. In order to take part in the statewide contest, participants must first take part in regional contests. However, those students who do not have a regional contest in their area are welcome to participate as well.

To participate in a regional contest, please contact one of the coordinators below. 

NOTE: If there is a regional competition in your area, you must compete in the local competition.  Only contestant registrations from areas without a regional competition will be accepted individually.

Please click here to view the rules and regulations for the 2020 Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest.

Please click here for the news release announcing winners of the 2019 Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest.

If you are interested in beginning a regional contest in your area, or for more information on the statewide oratorical contest, please contact the Ohio Department of Administrative Services' Equal Opportunity Division at 614-466-8380 or

2019 Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest

First place – Playon Patrick, 11th-grader, Fort Hayes High School, Columbus. Runners-up – Bre'Anna Walker, 11th-grader, Columbus Alternative High School, Columbus; and Jacob Vinson, 11th-grader, St. Martin DePorres High School, Cleveland.

First place – Ayla Bella, eighth-grader, Columbus Gifted Academy, Columbus. Runners-up – Mackenzie Lewis, seventh-grader, St. Catharine School, Columbus; and Gabriella Falconer, seventh-grader, Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Akron.

First place – Adonia Balqis, fifth-grader, Clinton Elementary School, Columbus. Runners-up – Beckham Nethken, fifth-grader, Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Akron, Akron; and Elena Early, fifth-grader, Clinton Elementary School, Columbus.

First place – Leah Jackson, second-grader, Glendale Primary School, Bedford. Runners-up – Isaiah Gatson, second-grader, Glendale Primary School, Bedford; and Jayden Hawkins, first-grader, College Hill Fundamental Academy, Cincinnati.

Please click here to view photos from the 2019 MLK Commission events.

Pictured: Contestants, judges and commissioners at the 2019 Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest.