OTTUMWA — For 20 years, Martin Luther King's contributions to society have been recognized in Wapello County school ceremonies.
This year, at least two different angles will be available to the community.
The Ottumwa Community School District and Indian Hills Community College will co-host one program celebrating the life and peaceful activism of King. The other program will be at Horace Mann Elementary School, where they'll focus on the "I have a dream" speech by asking children what their dreams are.
Adults, said one educator, might be surprised what the youngsters have to say.
"Let me share with you one dream from a fourth-grader," said Horace Mann Principal Jeff Hendred. "The best thing about being a Bulldog is that the teachers make me feel like I'm smart enough to be a physical therapist, like my sister."
Hendred said there's no need to push kids to dream — they're already doing it. One third-grade boy said he likes to work hard on his math assignments because he wants to do construction when he gets older. A fourth-grade student wants to go to college so he can design video games.
"They are already dreaming," Hendred said."It's up to us to fan the flames of those dreams, to [further] inspire those dreams."
Invited for the celebration are former Horace Mann students who attend Ottumwa High School. They'll share their dreams, too.
"Our kids in this community have big dreams! We'd love to have the public attend," said Hendred.
The IHCC presentation will be in cooperation with Ottumwa High School and other members of the community, and it is also open to the public, said district officials.
"The program highlights the non-violent theme King used during the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. Program highlights include the Indian Hills Community College concert choir and Tono Bella, the a cappella student-led group; the Ottumwa High School JROTC Color Guard and Meistersingers; soloist Tasha Williams, and Indian Hills drama students."
Laura Wiebe, professor of vocal music at Indian Hills, will lead the choir.
"We are singing an upbeat, energetic spiritual called Freedom Train, by a leading composer of modern spirituals who happened to be a teacher of mine," "It'll be a pretty exciting finale."
She expects people in attendance will appreciate the message of the music.
"We're also singing a piece in a cappella style," she added.
The keynote speaker this year is Marcus McIntosh. McIntosh is a news anchor for KCCI-TV. He has been with the station for 14 years. Previously, he was a reporter in Springfield, Mass.
The program at Indian Hills is expected to last an hour starting at 7 p.m. Monday in St. John Auditorium. The assembly at Horace Mann will be at 10:45 a.m. Monday in the school gym.
— Reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark