Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” By this he meant that, when we stop standing up for what we believe is right we are prohibiting ourselves from seeing a better day.

My grandfather, Robert Ellis Sr., is a victim of this system. He was an outstanding scholar but couldn’t go to college due to the fact that he was black. This made him seek work on his uncle’s farm. I can’t let history repeat itself.

I have maintained all A’s for the past 3 years, while performing at a Master’s Level on standardized tests and taking high school classes while in junior high, and now taking advanced placement classes in high school. I am a junior, but currently rank 30 out of a class of 475. I have a 4.239 GPA.

I’m not bragging because it shouldn’t and doesn’t stop here. I feel the need to do more for my neighborhood, community, city, county, state, and even nation. I’ve got to be a “Drum Major for Peace.” So please gather and listen closely, because there has got to be a change and it is up to you and I to make sure this change comes about. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. You cannot look to everyone else to make changes for you, you must look in the mirror and become the change you want to see.

We can no longer sit back and accept where we are in life today. We must initiate change peacefully. Certainly, it won’t come easy but we must begin the work to set things right. We are divided as a nation today, we are at war with ourselves and it looks as if it is inevitable that we will soon be in war with Iran. We can no longer kill our brothers, or afford to kill ourselves with weapons of destruction such as drugs, alcohol, or guns.

We cannot afford to drop out of school and become uneducated fools, we must seek education. We can no longer rob our families and neighbors to support habits that that will either lead to a life of imprisonment or a six foot grave. We must make an honest living and buy the things that we can afford. We can no longer sit back and wait on someone else to lead the way, we must stand up and get ready for the road ahead.

We cannot look to be commended for a good job until we bring our brothers and sisters along that are struggling and living with inadequate housing, clean water, and the bare necessities of life. We must clean up our neighborhoods and take pride in the families that make up our communities. We can no longer rob or steal from the elderly as they close their doors at night. We must become that man or woman in the mirror that cares.

Do you hear me as I say, stand with me now. Let us be the change that America has long awaited for. Many people have been suppressed for a very long time. We are more eager to pick up a football and outrun our opponents than we are to pick up a book and outsmart them. We must use our god given talent in order to beat them on an intellectual plane.

The strongest country in the world that gives me the opportunity to speak my mind, is the United States of America. President Trump, although much respected because he is the president of the United States of America, has divided this country.

I say to you, “If we cannot start at the top, then we must start from the bottom.” No one man is better than another, we all bleed the same blood. Money, race, religion, and education may separate us now, but I tell you that the day is coming when the walls of injustice will be brought down. This is a dark time, but we must open our eyes and begin to see as Dr. King did. Truly, only light can drive out darkness and only love can drive out hatred. People were meant to love each other regardless of their nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, or levels of education.

It is not right or good to hate anyone, especially each other. So, I ask you again to stand tall with me, as no “nuclear weapon” can be bigger than our hearts. We can be the “Drum Majors of Peace, Justice and Righteousness”. We must believe in ourselves and in each other.

Yes, I know that being the change isn’t an easy feat. It takes true dedication and drive to even think of making a change. But as I say loud and clearly, Dr. Martin Luther King died fighting for what was right. What will we do, what can we do? I tell you, there is no limit to what can be achieved. We can all climb this ladder together.

We are not crabs, we are humans! No one should be left behind. So don’t sit down and close your doors or your ears to what is taking place in our neighborhoods and across the world. Walk with me now, and spread the word. Be the change that is needed. No matter what you contribute, you will realize that it can make a difference, because you do. Make a difference today, you have just been deputized to be a “Drum Major for Peace ... Justice ... and Righteousness”.

Robert James Ellis III attends Ball High School. His First Place essay won $300.

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(3) comments

Bailey Jones

[thumbup] Well said, young man.

Paula Flinn

Thank you, and congratulations for writing an inspirational and thoughtful essay, Robert. You are an exceptional person.

Charlotte O'rourke

Congratulations to all 3 essayists for inspiring words and thoughts to commemorate a remarkable individual and the ideals of peace, equality, value of educational opportunities, and helping others reach their potential.

God bless.

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