COEUR d’ALENE — "If there is no struggle, there is no progress," Greensferry Elementary School fifth-grader Noah Ingle softly spoke into the microphone Thursday.
Noah took these words, first said nearly 200 years ago by prominent human rights activist and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and shared how they apply to his own life.
"I can't give up, even when I struggle in school," he said.
Noah didn't know about Douglass until he and his classmates were assigned to write essays for the 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Kids Program, held at the Schuler Performing Arts Center on the North Idaho College campus.
"Frederick Douglass was a very wise man, and he must have been respected very fairly after the civil rights movement," Noah said. "If he wasn't, then he definitely deserved to be respected and honored."
As a student and an athlete, Douglass's words are significant to Noah: he perseveres through difficult math problems and he keeps going even when the going is tough.
"(This quote) makes me always want to get up whenever I'm down and give it my heart and soul," Noah said.
For Holy Family Catholic School student Olivia Lake, it's all about faith.
She quoted King: "Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."
"We, as people, can always be living examples of King" by doing, dreaming and loving as he did, Olivia said.
"For everyone, life is a staircase," she said. "Sometimes, we're close to the very bottom, when there's sadness in our lives. Other times, we're (up) kind of high, at a good point in our lives. God does have a plan for us; we can't always see that plan, we just have to take the first blind step. That's what faith is — trusting God, no matter what our step on the staircase brings. Trusting God, like King did."
Fifth-graders from schools across the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls school districts participated in the annual program, which included music performances and moving presentations by pastor Happy Watkins, who delivered King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and motivational speaker Stu Cabe, who encouraged students to be their best selves by using elephants as examples of kindness.
This year celebrates the milestone that more than 38,000 fifth-graders have attended this program through the years. Those who participated that first year are now in their 40s.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Kids Program was co-sponsored by NIC and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. KCTFHR has been involved since the beginning.
"In the world of children, there is no color that prohibits opportunity, love, justice and inclusion," said KCTFHR President Christie Wood. "This annual program teaches us that lesson."