For the 13th year in a row, Maplewood Middle School students, faculty and staff participated in the Michele Turner Annual MLK Silent Peace March on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
"It's a powerful statement of unity and what a community can do to try to represent an ideal," said Grade 6 Team Teacher Richard Palmgren, who spearheads the event.
When he first came up with the idea thirteen years ago, "No one thought that 800 middle school students could be silent for five minutes let alone an hour," said Palmgren. "Silence is a very loud statement."
The students assembled outside the school shortly after 9 a.m. and began their march through Maplewood Village and back under a frigid but crystal clear sky.
Police cars blocked off Maplewood Avenue as the students filed by, some carrying homemade signs. Passersby stopped to watch.
This year for the first time, students assembled in the auditorium after the march to watch Dr. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech on two large screens. (In past years, they had watched on televisions in their classrooms).
The students sat quietly, raptly focused on the screen and following along on printed copies of the speech. The only sound was the simultaneous turning of 800 pages.
At the speech's conclusion, the students burst into applause.
Palmgren pointed out that this is the 50th anniversary of the speech, giving the event a special resonance. He said that next year, he would like to have a guest speaker, perhaps someone who had marched with Dr. King.
Principal Truppo, who led the students in the Pledge of Allegiance, asked them to think about what the speech means to them. "What have we achieved...what do we still need to work on?" he asked.
With that, he asked the students to walk, silently, back to their classrooms.