Pleasantview student wins county oratory competition

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 18, 2015

 Alajah McGee, 10, stands with her parents, Melody and Earl McGee, following the Feb. 9 East Detroit school board meeting. Alajah was honored for winning a countywide oratory competition on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Alajah McGee, 10, stands with her parents, Melody and Earl McGee, following the Feb. 9 East Detroit school board meeting. Alajah was honored for winning a countywide oratory competition on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Photo by Kevin Bunch

Advertisement
Advertisement

EASTPOINTE — A Pleasantview Elementary School fourth-grader won accolades for her rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon last month in a countywide oratory event.

Alajah McGee, 10, was selected as the elementary grade winner of the 28th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration of Macomb County, an event that took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 19 at Dakota High School in Macomb Township. The Interfaith Center for Racial Justice judged the contest winners.

“There were (dozens) of schools and hundreds of students, and she was selected the winner,” East Detroit Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch said during the Feb. 9 school board meeting.

McGee said that her road to the event started some time earlier, when her teacher, Michelle Kado, planned on posting a video on the Internet of a student giving the speech to enter the contest; McGee decided to volunteer to do so.

“Once I did the videotape, I felt really good about it,” McGee said. “Once I found out I won, I felt really surprised — I didn’t think it would really win.”

The speech — and the sermon on which it is based — is about people’s innate desire to be out in front, in first place, getting all the praise and adulation like a drum major. King’s sermon focuses on the negative consequences of that instinct, like prejudice or trying to live above your means, and how people need to instead use that instinct for positive purposes.

As part of the prize package, McGee was asked to give the speech again in front of an audience at Dakota High School. Calling the task “scary,” McGee said she practiced the speech over and over until she had the whole thing memorized.

Lelekatch said McGee stood on stage in front of 150 people and did an outstanding job despite some technical difficulties. She added that seeing it was one of the proudest moments in her 36-year education career.

“I had this clipped-on microphone, and ... the people who were supposed to turn it on, they turned on the wrong one for another speaker,” McGee said. “So my mom came up and gave me the other microphone that you’re supposed to hold, so I just gave my speech from there.”

Craig Brozowski, East Detroit Board of Education president, said he attended the event and that McGee kept her poise despite the microphone trouble.

“You didn’t lose your cool,” Brozowski said. “Not once.”

McGee said she remembered back to when she was recording the initial video. The media teacher kept “scratching his head and walking around the classroom,” which she found amusing. She was able to keep her nerves under control by just thinking about it, she said.

McGee has since given the same address before the Eastpointe City Council and the East Detroit Board of Education. As of press time, she was scheduled to give the speech at the superintendents’ meeting at the Macomb Intermediate School District.

She said her family has been excited for her and “really supportive.”

“It’s really fun doing it,” she said. “I don’t even know how I’m doing it, because I’m really shy.”

Pleasantview Principal Fran Hobbs said the whole school was proud of McGee and that the staff was surprised when she said she wanted to do the speech due to how quiet she tends to be.

“We’re exceptionally proud of Alajah,” she said. “She’s done a marvelous job with her oration.”

Advertisement
Advertisement