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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned a society in which war and violent oppression give way to hope and lasting peace. During this present time of racially motivated acts of hate as seen across news programs and papers, Dr. King’s vision is all the more significant today as it was in 1963.

The Rev. Dr. Valentino Lassiter not only shared Dr. King’s dream but also worked to make it a reality by generously serving the church and the wider Cleveland community, leading by word and example, through education, activism, and walking together with those in need.

“Continuing the Dream” Lecture Series

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, Dr. Lassiter inaugurated the “Continuing the Dream” lecture series at John Carroll University.

  • Part I of that series, presented in 2013, was entitled “Hope and Peace in Word and Song.”
  • Part II, presented in 2014, highlighted “Women and the Ministry.”
  • Part III, in 2015, was to focus on the contributions and talents of young people who are continuing Dr. King’s dream of equality and harmony across racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries. Dr. Lassiter's sudden death interrupted the planning for that final part of the series.

This essay contest picks up where Dr. Lassiter's series was supposed to conclude, celebrating the efforts of students who are "continuing the dream" by building equality and harmony across racial, ethnic, gender, religious, and other social boundaries.

Student Essay Contest

This essay contest provides the opportunity to celebrate students who are continuing the dream shared by the Rev. Drs. Lassiter and King of one nation united together in freedom and harmony, with each person being treated with justice and respect.


  • Submit a 1,000-word essay and a 500-word project proposal.
  • In the essay, describe one activity in which you have participated that helps further the work of the Rev. Drs. Lassiter and King to realize the American dream of “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (1,000 words)
  • Based on the activity described in the essay, outline a workshop or other short program you could do with other JCU students that would help them grasp the significance of the justice question at the heart of your activity. (500 words)
  • The prizewinner will be expected to run this workshop or other program in the spring semester. Please review the University academic and events calendars and then specify how and when you would propose to carry out your program.

SUBMISSIONS: Submit entries via Google form.

DEADLINE: Entries must be received by March 13, 2020 to be considered for the award.

PRESENTATION: The Lassiter Award will be presented at the JCU student service awards event in the spring semester.

ELIGIBILITY: All currently enrolled John Carroll University students are invited to enter this contest.

SELECTION COMMITTEE: TRS faculty, staff, and the prior year's award winner.

PRIZE: $500 prize for the winning entry, awarded after the workshop or program is completed.

The inaugural “Continuing the Dream” Award was received by Gurnit Chima, on January 26, 2016 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day).

In 2018, Manny Brown presented their workshop entitled "Say It Loud: The Black Transgender Experience in America:"

Gabriella Flores won the award in 2019 and explored the history of student activism at John Carroll with "JCU Resists: Past, Present & Future." 

male and female in wooden room

Gurnit Chima and Arun Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson) at John Carroll University, January 26, 2016.

Gurnit Chima and Arun Gandhi

Inaugural “Continuing the Dream” Award

The inaugural “Continuing the Dream” Award was received by first-year student Gurnit Chima on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2016. An intended psychology major, Ms. Chima presented “Embrace, not disgrace!”.

Dr. Valentino Lassiter

2017 “Continuing the Dream” Award

The 2017 Lassiter Award winner was senior PJHR major Karen Posner for her work with the Native American community. Her community-engagement event included an original art display with contributions from a variety of JCU students; a special guest lecture.

JCU Statue during winter

2018 “Continuing the Dream” Award

Mannie Brown, the 2018 Lassiter Award winner, presented the community-engagement workshop, “Say It Loud: The Black Transgender Experience in America” (21 Feb 2018).

Rev. Dr. Lassiter Memorial Resolution

John Carroll University established this award in loving memory of the Rev. Dr. Valentino Lassiter.

See the full resolution

Helpful Resources for Getting Started

  • Rev. Dr. Valentino Lassiter, speech at Cleveland Clinic 2015 MLK Holiday Observance
  • Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" Speech
    (Lincoln Memorial, Washington, August 28, 1963)