14-Year-Old Hartford Youth Emerging As A Community Leader
April 19, 2007
By KATHLEEN MEGAN, Courant Staff Writer
At 14 years old, Michael Moore Jr., is young to have his own community service organization. But then, he was a bit young - 8 - when he gave his first public speech.
Michael, who lives in Hartford and is a high school freshman, started "Courage to Change Things" two years ago. This Saturday - as one of his projects - he is holding a play day at a Hartford shelter for battered women and their children.
To Michael, it all seems like a logical progression.
"I was talking the talk. It was time to walk the walk," said Michael with a sincerity and maturity that are far beyond his years.
The talk in this case was the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Six years ago, Michael's mother, Yvette Moore, was planning the state's Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration, when she realized she needed to fill a few minutes.
Although he hadn't had any public speaking experience, she decided to call upon her young son. She got a copy of King's 1968 speech, "The Drum Major Instinct," and coached her young son through a section of it.
He could barely reach the microphone at the state Capitol ceremony, but Michael was a natural, delivering King's message with authority, with every cadence in its place. He was so successful, in fact, that he has been called on many times since to deliver King's words. He's also done parts of the "I Have a Dream" and "What's Your Life's Blueprint" speeches.
But it was during his middle school years that he began to think a bit more about those words and what they meant.
A passage from the "Drum Major" speech particularly resonated with him.
As King reached the end of the long speech, which was delivered on Feb. 4, 1968, in Georgia, he spoke about how he would like to be remembered: "I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to give his life serving others ... I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity."
Said Michael, "The more I practiced it, the more I understood what I was saying."
Wondering what he might do to help others is how Michael came to be standing last week in the backyard at Interval House in Hartford, a shelter for battered women and their families.
"I think we'll have football over there and basketball here," said Michael as he looked around the yard, planning a day of fun for the kids.
If it's raining, he's bringing Checkers, Twister, other board games, as well as a gift for each child in the shelter.
"I just want them to have a happy day," said Michael.
In the past he has collected toys, clothes and food for people in need. However, this latest effort is being done in coordination with Hartford's celebration today of National and Global Youth Service Day.
As part of that event Michael will speak today at the Old State House on the East Lawn. (The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and his speech will include a portion of King's "Drum Major" speech. )
Also as part of that event, about 1,000 kids will volunteer throughout Greater Hartford on Saturday. Michael's project - which will include volunteers from the community organization, Our Piece of the Pie - will be part of that effort.
Jeffrey Hill, pastor of Memorial AME Zion Church in Windsor, which Michael attends, said he has seen the youth grow more confident and courageous in recent years.
"He has always been very mature, definitely ahead of his time," said Hill, but lately he's been "taking on more leadership in getting things done. He came to our church and made an appeal to pursue his projects. He really took the initiative."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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