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Winners of the 2018-19 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest

Warner Norcross + Judd is pleased to announce the winners of its 14th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., essay contest.  The firm conducts the contest each year to honor the legacy and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The contest is open to sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.  The firm received 336 essay submissions from 15 different schools. Essays were judged by more than 50 Warner attorneys and staff in our offices across the state. The essays were evaluated for ideas, organization, style and conventions.

This year’s winners are:

  • Roz McBrier, Ridgemoor Park Montessori, Grand Prize
  • Ellouise Lambertson, John Ball Zoo School, First Runner-Up
  • Henry Robinette, North Park Montessori, Second Runner-Up

Additionally, 22 students from 10 different schools received honorable mentions. They attend Center for Economicology, Grand Rapids Montessori, Grand Rapids Public Museum School, Harrison Park School, John Ball Zoo School, North Park Montessori, Ridgemoor Park Montessori, Riverside Middle School, University Prep Academy and Westwood Middle School.

The winning essays appear below:

Grand Prize 

Roz McBrier 

Ms. Joy’s Class

Ridgemoor Park Montesorri

Keeping Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream Alive

 Imagine a world where we appreciated our differences and treated every human being equally. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream to end racism and provide equal rights for all. We can keep his dream alive by using our right to vote, educating ourselves on other cultures and races, along with being kind and respectful to everyone.

Voting allows us to help choose the leaders who make laws and solve problems. Our leaders are able to make laws that improve people’s lives. When voting, choose a leader that cares about the lives of their people and believes in equal rights for all. On August 26, 1920, women finally earned the right to vote. When women and people of color were finally allowed to vote, their opinions were, and still are, heard and supported by leaders. Voting also helps keep laws in place to protect everyone’s rights.

Learning about other races and cultures leads to a better understanding of others. Try to find something in common with someone different than you. It helps you get along and understand them better. Try to visit new places, attend meetings, or religious services. This first hand experience with other cultures can also help you understand people better. Educate yourself on the correct language to use when describing another person or their origin. If you don’t know the right language, ask. This will make sure that you aren’t being racist by using uneducated terms. Most people have problems or fears of other races simply because they do not understand them. We can eliminate those fears by educating ourselves about other cultures and races.

Every person in this world is different, but being different doesn’t make someone better or worse. Treat others as you want to be treated. Remember to stop and think before you speak or act unkind. Following the golden rule can put us in another person’s shoes so you can understand them and treat them with respect. Don’t laugh at racist jokes or allow another person to be laughed at because of the color of their skin or their culture. When we laugh at racist jokes or allow someone to be treated unequally, we are saying racism is ok and ignoring the problem. If you see someone being treated with disrespect, say or do something to stop it. Reach out to people being left out. Kindness is sitting with the kid who has no friends, asking them about themselves, letting them know that they are not alone. Everyone in this world deserves kindness and respect no matter what race, gender, or culture.

On the whole, ending racism and providing equal rights for all is not a simple task. However, there are ways each of us can help keep Martin Luther King’s dream alive. Voting for leaders that support equal rights, educating ourselves on other races and cultures, and treating every person with kindness and respect are perfect ways to start. Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted saying, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” We should all keep his words as inspiration to keep his dream of equal rights for all alive.

First Runner Up

 Ellouise Lambertson

Mr. John Fordney’s class

John Ball Zoo School

“I have a dream today … I have a dream that one day every valley shall be made love. Rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be fine one day.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was to end racism and provide equal rights for all. Together we can keep his dream alive by treating people fairly, with equality, and with kindness. There are many simple ways that we can all keep Dr. King Jr’s dream around.

By befriending someone we can keep king’s dream functioning. Just reach out to somebody and ask them if they’d be your friend. Ask them about their hobbies, their family, what they like to do for fun, maybe even invite them to your house. Get to know a person! Slowly and honestly, seeking nothing in return except to know and love them. Your best friend that you never knew might be your neighbor, or even someone in your school! Start small but with purpose, this is how love grows. Encourage others to do the same, it’s best for everyone.

We can also help by paying attention to social issues, find one that troubles you, and work to eliminate it. Don’t ignore the issues of today that make you uncomfortable.  Embrace sympathy, let them trouble you, and let your soul be troubled by the weight of injustice. But even more than that, take action! Volunteer, feed the homeless, donate, or maybe even change the law. Awareness breeds action and action breeds change.

We can serve others. Whether you’d like to admit it or not humans are selfish people, we like thinking that the world revolves around us, but life definitely isn’t that way. You can share your time, money, talents, or passion, but make the decision to share it with others. Even a simple commitment to do something with someone once a week or even once a month will make a difference.

To benefit we can lead by example. Though far from perfect, Martin led by example. He didn’t tell people to march while he lounged on the couch, he marched with them. He showed others the beauty of non-violent protests. We can all do the same at home, at school, at the park, and even in court, wherever you are you have the chance to lead by example. Lead and let your principals guide you. Even if the road seems long, rough, or hard. As Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.”

We can have faith in everything even when it seems impossible. Dr. King had many days filled with doubt. He was hopeful, but unsure, prayerful, but sometimes discouraged. This too is our story no matter what battles we face. Dr. King reminds us by his life and his words as he said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” So don’t you dare give up. Believe just as much you do when it’s hard as you do when it’s easy. The persistent beauty of our faith is our greatest legacy.

So as the world celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., don’t count yourself out. You are a part of his legacy whether or not you share his ethnicity or race because his legacy is one of peace, of passion, of service, and of faith. Though Dr. King’s life was marked by hard times, discouragement, and moments of defeat, it was ultimately a life full of courage and grace and that is a legacy we should all pursue to keep. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, let’s decide to stick with love, hate is too great of a burden to bear.

Second Runner Up

Henry Robinette

Mrs. Ettinger’s class

North Park Montessori

We must all live together as brothers or perish together as fools” Martin Luther King Jr made that statement at the St. Louis speech on March 22 1964. I also believe that we need to live together as brothers and sisters because when something positive happens in our community it all affects us positively, but when something negative in the community it affects us negatively. This speaks to me in many ways.

Positive acts can cancel negative acts out. For example, one of the ways this speaks to me is when I’m feeling really, really down, people cheer me up, then I feel better. We need to learn to forgive each other too or we’ll “perish together as fools”. I figured out if you forgive someone they’ll probably forgive you too, then everything will be alright. Forgiving will always make things better.

When we contribute to our community many benefit. For example, last year part of our school went to an apple orchard and picked apples for Feeding America. The farm we went to, Ridgeview Orchards, donated hundreds of pounds of apples. Feeding America donates food to 490,100 people. That’s helping a lot of people. We had fun and learned about food, and people got fed. Both our school and the people that needed food benefited. Doing one kind thing can affect a lot of people.

Another way this speaks to me is when I’m arguing with someone, especially my friends. We just throw reasons why the other is in the wrong at each other with no compromises or agreements and we just end up angry at each other. I think everybody needs to think about this when they are in a feud with somebody. If we don’t learn to deal with each other, nobody’s ever going to be happy. Being angry at people won’t do anything but bad.

When I see injustice, like families getting separated at the border, it make me sad even though it’s not me. It connects to MLK’s quote not only because they’re literally separating brothers, but also it hurts many people. I can’t imagine getting separated from my family. It also makes other immigrants scared about getting separated from their family too. Injustice doesn’t just affect one person.

Even though this was said 54 years ago MLK’s words are still relevant today, doing kind things will affect the community positively and doing unkind things will affect the community negatively. We all need to try to live as brothers and sisters.

Four Attorneys from Warner Norcross & Judd Have Been Selected to Participate in Community Leadership Programs

Four attorneys from Warner Norcross & Judd have been selected to participate in leadership programs in the communities served by the firm. They include Charles Ash, Jr., Julie Lam, Anissa Hudy and Kurt Brauer.

AshCharles Ash, a partner with the firm, will be among 35 business professional, nonprofit executives and government leaders to participate in Leadership Grand Rapids, a nine-month community leadership program from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. The 2014 class, which begins in September and wraps up in May 2014, will give current and emerging leaders the opportunity to explore issues connected with community building, including talent development, public safety, philanthropy, community health and others essential to a vibrant Grand Rapids.

Mr. Ash concentrates his practice in litigation and has extensive experience representing businesses in complex contract and tort litigation in state and federal trial courts throughout the country. He serves on the boards of the Student Advancement Foundation and Calvin College Alumni Association. He is a graduate of Leadership West Michigan.

LamJulie Lam, an associate, has been selected for the Inforum Executive Leadership Program. Ms. Lam will be among 32 business professional, non-profit executives and government leaders to participate in the four-month leadership program. The 2013 class, which begins in September and wraps up in December, will give personalized instruction and focused coaching that allows participants to explore their personal leadership style, understand what it takes to be an effective leader and receive personal coaching and feedback.

Ms. Lam concentrates her practice in civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels.


HudyAnissa  Hudy, Senior Counsel at the firm, has been selected to participate in Leadership Macomb. Ms. Hudy will be among 30+ business professional, community and government leaders to participate in the nine-month community leadership program. The 2014 class, which begins in September and wraps up in June 2014, will give current and emerging leaders the opportunity to explore emerging issues that will impact Macomb County, Southeast Michigan and the bottom line of their own organizations.

Ms. Hudy concentrates her practice on real estate and commercial litigation with an emphasis on creditors’ rights. She is a member of the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation and serves on the Court Reporting and Recording Board of Review Fees Workgroup for the State of Michigan.


BrauerKurt  Brauer, a partner, has been selected to participate in Leadership Detroit. Mr. Brauer will be among 65 business professional, non-profit executives and government leaders to participate in the nine-month community leadership program of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. The 2014 class, which begins in September and wraps up in May 2014, will give current and emerging leaders the opportunity to explore key issues that affect the Detroit region and explore ways to bring about positive change in the community through informed leadership.

Mr. Brauer counsels clients in economic development and environmental compliance and regulatory matters with an emphasis on brownfield redevelopment and business expansion incentive packages. He also assists them in resolving complex real estate matters. He is recognized in Best Lawyers in America and as a dBusiness Top Lawyer.

Warner Leaders Participate in Inclusive Leadership Workshop

Arin ReevesWarner Norcross & Judd’s Managing Partner, Doug Wagner, was among 11 leaders from the firm who participated in the first annual Inclusive Leadership Workshop sponsored by the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative.  The workshop, which was conducted on June 3 and June 4,   explored the difference between diversity and inclusion and the business case for diversity and inclusion in law firms.  Participants discussed implicit biases and learned how to identify impediments to inclusion in their firms.

The workshop was conducted by Dr. Arin Reeves, of Nextions LLC.  Dr. Reeves is one of the foremost consultants in the area of law firm diversity and inclusion. Her book, The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders was published in 2012 by the American Bar Association. Dr. Reeves has worked with law firms and legal departments on diversity and inclusion for nearly 20 years. She is an advisor to the Center for Legal Inclusiveness in Colorado and is the co-author of its manual, Beyond Diversity: Inclusiveness in the Legal Workplace.

 The Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative was formed in 2011 by 12 of the largest law offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in association with the Grand Rapids Bar Association, to promote diversity and inclusion in our firms and the profession. Conducting the annual workshop is one of 45 action steps in the Collaborative’s Action Plan adopted in 2012.  Over 40 leaders from the 12 member firms participated in the workshop.

African American History to Come Alive at Fifth Third Bank

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In celebration of Black History Month, Fifth Third Bank is hosting a live museum in the lobby of its main office in Grand Rapids (111 Lyon Street NW) on Friday, February 22.  All of the actors who will portray historical African Americans are employees of Fifth Third Bank – which makes it very cool.  The actors will reenact key moments of our nation’s past to educate and remind us of the journey our nation has traveled and honor the men and women who lived the story. Fifth Third Bank will come alive with characters impersonating some of the most important and influential figures in African American history. The Live Museum is in partnership with New Hope Baptist Church; characters will be dressed in period costumes and will reveal themselves by sharing details of their lives, struggles, and accomplishments. The historic icons will be played by Fifth Third employees and will include:  

  • Harriet Tubman
  • Dr. George Washington Carver
  • Daniel Hale Williams
  • Madame CJ Walker
  • Lonnie Johnson
  • Osceola McCarty
  • The Negro Mother

The living history museum will also be presented at Woodland Mall the following day.


Join Us at Inforum’s BoardAccess™ Briefing: How Boards Work

On Wednesday, February 27, Diversity Partner Rodney Martin will moderate a discussion with Maureen Noe, President and CEO, Heart of West Michigan United Way, and Mary Tuuk, President of Fifth Third Bank, Western Michigan, who will share their personal stories and insights on corporate board effectiveness. The program is part of Inforum’s BoardAccessTM initiative. For more information, visit Inforum’s website by clicking here.

Here is an interesting infographic from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School on women at work.

Women at Work Infographic Via MBA@UNC
Via MBA@UNC: Top MBA Online & Women 2.0

Announcing the Winners of the 8th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has announced the results of its Eighth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest.

The contest, which was open to all Grand Rapids Public Schools’ sixth-graders, asked the students to prepare an essay focused on how Dr. King’s legacy of peace and justice applies to the world in which they live. Over 250 students participated in this year’s competition.

The Winners of the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest are:

  • Daijon Miller, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize
  • Tyevon Williams, Riverside Middle School, First Runner Up
  • Rashon Adams, Alger Middle School, Second Runner Up

Each winning student will receive a certificate of deposit and a gift card to a local bookstore. Additionally, 21 students received an honorable mention and will receive a gift card to a local bookstore. All participating students will receive a personalized certificate of completion.

Daijon Miller has been invited to read his essay at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Peace Program on Monday, Jan. 21 at 12:30 p.m. (following the Community Peace March) and again at the Annual Celebration program that evening at 6 p.m. Both events will be held at the Grand Rapids Community College Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse.

All winners and honorable mentions are invited to attend both events and will be recognized as a group. The winners and honorable mention recipients will be recognized by the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4.

Here are the winning essays.


Riverside Middle School, Ms. Emily Holt, Teacher

My Teacher Role Model

             Dr. King was a hero and a role model to me almost my whole life. I respect that during this life he was insulted and didn’t say anything back. He was beaten, stabbed, and jailed around thirty times and he never thought of suing or hitting anyone. If that would’ve been me, I would do anything I could to get back at them. I guess non-violence is one of the many traits it takes to be a hero. Heroes also need to be helpful, have great ideas, and they need to put others before themselves.

My personal role model is Mr. Cook, my 4th grade teacher before I moved. He was a very nice man and a good teacher, too. He inspired me to do a program to help other students. I had lots of fun doing it, and I learned about myself along the way. During school time he paired me up with some struggling students who needed help with math. I understand math pretty well so I could help them with their homework and class assignments. I also helped them during electives and at LOOP after school.

He taught me more than just school subjects. He taught all of us the way we treat others is just as important as what we learn in books. One of the strategies he taught me on how to control my anger was that when people try to fight me I should close my eyes and count to three. When I opened my eyes I was supposed to be calm enough to say I won’t fight. The first time that I tried that I got punched in the stomach! On the flipside, the kid trying to fight me got suspended and I got to stay in school. It turned out Mr. Cook’s trick did some good since I didn’t get in any trouble at all!

The sad thing is that my hero is no longer here. Mr. Cook passed away last year. When I heard that, it made me want to honor his memory and be a better person. Now I try to remember what Mr. Cook taught me and control my anger even more. I haven’t fought anybody since 4th grade. He’d taught me lots of stuff but that the most important thing was to control my anger.

Heroes are against violence, heroes make great leaders and teachers, and heroes always find themselves in the role of helping others. I guess Dr. King and Mr. Cook have the qualities that make great heroes. There are lots of outstanding role models in the world, and I’m happy to have known Mr. Cook as one of those many great role models.


Riverside Middle School, Ms. Emily Holt, Teacher

Ordinary Heroes

             Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a history maker and a hero to other people and to me. Heroes to me are the ones who take risks for others, and who always think of themselves last. They come from many different walks of life and can be just about anybody. Dr. King lived his whole life unselfishly, and he always seemed to put his life in danger. He got so many death threats that he got pretty used to them. He always responded with non-violence and encouraged others to try to change their world through peaceful protests.

More recently, firefighters, police and ambulance drivers picked up the call. On 9/11, 2001, some first responders helped the people in the TwinTowers in New York City. That day they showed me what true heroes are made of. Those first responders showed me that true heroes don’t think of themselves first. They just naturally think of other people that are in need first. When the TwinTowers were about to fall, every human being in America wanted to help. Thank goodness those heroic first responders were there and willingly put their lives on the line to help. Sometimes situations make the hero in people come out. Heroes like these stepped up just like Dr. King would have.

Learning about what these people did impacted me a lot and made me want to be a better person. I don’t know if I would have the guts to go in to a burning tower, but just thinking about it makes me want to be a policemen or a fireman. Before I get old enough for those jobs, I can start small. If someone falls I’ll help them get back up on their feet. In my school I could help people try to open their lockers because I’m good at working combinations! At home I could help my sister, Deija with her Spanish homework. This is kind of heroic because she’s in high school, and I’m only in middle school.

I think Dr. King would want all the heroes who died on 9/11 to be remembered as inspirers. I think Dr. King was so unselfish and forgiving, and he wanted to help people just like those first responders from 9/11, 2011. Dr. King would want to say to me, “You can be who ever you want to be, you can make the world better, you can inspire others!”


Alger Middle School

My Hero

             When I think of a hero I think of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King is my hero because he was a very determined person who fought for equal rights. He wanted everyone to be treated fairly no matter what the color of your skin was, or what race you were. My Uncle Jamel reminds me of Martin Luther King because he was respectful, went to college, and has a nice job, home and family. And he loves basketball just like I do.

My Uncle Jamel is a great role model to me because he did what I’ve always wanted to do when I get older, and that is play basketball. My Uncle Jamel was very determined to play basketball when he was in school. Even though he didn’t make it to the NBA, he is still very successful and still plays basketball during his free time. Jamel also coaches youth basketball for the AAU basketball league. His team went undefeated and won the national championship, and as a result of being a great role model and possessing a great character, he has made me a better person.

My Uncle Jamel has made me a better person because he encourages me to keep my grades up in school and stay in sports, and stay active. He also encourages me to go to college and play a sport that I like and someday I might be a professional at it. My Uncle Jamel went to MichiganStateUniversity. He didn’t play basketball in college a lot, but he was still very good at it. My Uncle Jamel even had a chance to go to the NBA and play for the Detroit Pistons, but he decided to stay home and take care of his mother, who eventually died from a heart attack.

My Uncle Jamel also has great characteristics. He respects all of his teachers and friends who helped him when he was in college, high school, and even elementary. Everyone knew that Jamel was a great person and also possessed great characteristics. He never got frustrated at the refs or his coaches when he was in a game. He was always a leader and a role model to the players on his team and other people around him.

That’s why both my Uncle Jamel and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are both my role models, and they both make me want to be a better person and accomplish some of the things they’ve accomplished. When I think of a role model I think of Martin Luther King Jr. and my Uncle Jamel! They are my role models. Who are yours?