Powerful Words Unite Us in Service - secondary

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Lead a discussion about the power of words to include, instruct, and inspire action. Participants analyze quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, about being open and inclusive. Design social justice posters to teach others about what they learned. 

Print45-Minute Session, plus time for a service experience

The learners will be able to

  • describe the correlation between lack of understanding and hate.
  • interpret the intent of a famous quote and discuss the role of love in racial and social justice.
  • create a racial and social justice poster using few words, a strong image, and a positive message envisioning a more racially and socially just future.
  • access to the Internet and YouTube
  • art materials, including poster board
  • What is the intent of your project on you and others?
  • What is the impact of your project on you and others?
  • What would you like to do next to continue growing love, joy, and respect in your community?
  • The Compliment Guys on the Purdue Campus [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqsgP5vAOkg]
  • The Kodak company with the Purdue duo on a bus [https://vimeo.com/6537171]
  • Favianna Rodriguez art activist [https://favianna.com/resources/guides]
  • Civility and Civil Conversations: This resource, written by Learning to Give educators provides language, videos, and tips for civil conversations. 

  • Difficult Conversations: This Learning to Give resource helps young people address challenging issues with respectful dialogue.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Choose one or two of these questions for discussion. Copy these Google Slides to facilitate remote conversation.

    1. What does racial and social justice mean? What does it mean to you?
    2. What does racial and social justice look like in your community? 
    3. What would you like racial and social justice to look like in your community? 
    4. What is an example of reducing hate by increasing our knowledge? How might listening to others' stories help us treat others with love and respect?
  2. Part One: 
    Discuss the concept of being inclusive and respectful to people of all races, backgrounds, beliefs, and ableness.
    • Share a personal example of when a first impression changed with experience or when you got to know something or someone.
    • Make the connection that first impressions or hate may come from limited experience or lack of knowledge. When we personally know more about something or a group of people, it’s difficult to feel fear or hate.
    • Discuss what racial and social justice issues we can fight for. 
  3. Part Two: 

    Working in small groups, read aloud and discuss the meanings of one or two of the following quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Copy these Google Slides to facilitate remote conversation.

    • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
    • “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
    • “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
    • “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” 
    • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
    • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
    • “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
  4. Part Three: 

    Two students from Purdue University took the above quotes to heart and experimented with the impact of giving compliments and sharing kindness. Watch two videos and be ready to talk about the impact of kind words on a community. Copy these Google Slides to facilitate the remote activity.

  5. Looking at the Dr. King quotes above again, identify words from the quotes that are reflected in the project of the Compliment Guys. Discuss the following questions in small groups or the whole group:
    • What words from the quotes were reflected in the project?
    • What was the impact of their service project?
    • What similar project could we do to share the message of Dr. King and open the hearts and minds in our community?
  6. Service Project:

    Use words, love, and light to unite people in the community. Make a social action poster following the three guidelines in the video below: few words, strong image, positive message envisioning a better way.
    Share the poster in a public area or in social media and spark conversations about justice and inclusion. 
    Note: The video uses the language "political poster," but the suggestions are great for any poster that educates, inspires, and moves people to action.

  7. Procedure:
    • Provide poster board and markers. Design a poster to spark social action and respect for diverse people in the community.
    • Discuss and plan what locations in the community or on social media will be appropriate for this poster
    • Decide how they will capture the impact of their advocacy. Suggestions: pictures, video, counts of people, interviews, a narrative of people’s reactions, or a blog.
    • Implement the plan and engage people in discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.