OTTUMWA — Martin Luther King Day is not a black holiday, the principal told his students. It is a holiday for all people.

“I can’t take credit for that,” said Jeff Hendred after an event Monday at Douma Elementary School. “Coretta Scott King said that.”

Hendred’s celebration was a little different than some of the others that have been held in Ottumwa before. Because the children were learning about the “I Have a Dream” speech in school, Hendred thought the kids would be better served by hearing what the holiday means to his widow.

Hendred also brought back former Douma fifth-graders now done with college and out fulfilling their own dreams.

And rather than hearing a recitation of MLK’s words, children shared how King has inspired them.

“I dream that there would be no war, and that people who go to war could be with their families,” said Maddison Bender, a Douma fifth-grader.

She also wants a world where all people have a warm home to live in and where animals are treated with kindness.

Another fifth-grade student, Hunter Puffinbarger, talked about his dreams as hopes for his future.

Hunter has three objectives: to become a police officer, to be rich and to build a hospital.


“So I can donate money to the community,” he explained.

As a police officer, he could help reduce crime, and by building a hospital, he could help alleviate sickness.

Georgia Perkins of Ottumwa said she was touched by the dreams read by the children. She was at Douma with two fellow musicians to perform, and Hendred asked if she had any advice.

“Don’t be afraid to dream,” she told students. “And don’t fail to pursue your dream.”

That’s because just having a goal isn’t enough, added fellow “Simply Grace” vocalist Sandra Pope. Be ready to work, she said.

“And support each other,” added Perkins.

Hendred finished Coretta Scott King’s words to his students. “This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream.”

Mark Newman can be reached at 683-5358 or by e-mail at


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