One day, Zaida Smith and her grandmother decided to create something special using dominos. They drew a huge heart on a piece of poster board and very carefully placed dominos around the outline before they pushed one over — and that is when everything fell into place.

This simple project lead to an important realization that the fifth grader shared at We Energies’ 40th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Contest.

“I envision this world as a huge heart, and we, the people, are the dominoes,” Zaida said. “Dr. King stated that ‘life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’ Well, Dr. King, here is my answer. I want to start a domino effect of compassion.”

We Energies was proud to support Zaida and 28 other finalists who wrote and delivered speeches that carry on Dr. King’s legacy.

For this year’s contest, students from kindergarten through 12th grade were asked to write a speech using the theme “What affects one, affects all,” inspired by Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states,” King wrote. “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

All of the students delivered their original speeches in front of friends, family and a panel of judges at the We Energies auditorium in December. From there, six first-place recipients were chosen to deliver their speeches at the citywide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Zaida was selected to deliver her speech at the Milwaukee Bucks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Night presented by We Energies on Sunday, Jan. 14.

“Dr. King stated that ‘we must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.’ The key word in this quote to me is ‘together,’” Zaida said. “I will keep the faith with the purpose of making this place a better world to live because what affects one, affects all.”