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Merrimack Valley

May 8, 2013

Speech winner: I live in the city of the 'damned proud'

LAWRENCE — High School junior Ricardo Rios said he has been underestimated because he lives in “The City of the Damned.”

The reference is to a controversial Boston Magazine article last year in which Lawrence was described as such.

“City of the Damned? I prefer to look at it as the city of the damn proud. City of damned determined. Yes, I am Latino. Soy Latino. But I don’t deserve anything but an equal chance to make it in this world,” Rios wrote in a speech for the Lawrence Bar Association Law Day speech contest this week.

His speech won first place among nine entrants.

This year’s theme was “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”

He was inspired by the words of Abraham Lincoln and Civil Rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

“I am not Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am not President Abraham Lincoln. I am solely an admirer and a listener of their teachings,” Rios wrote. “What they worked for should not have died with them and their impact should continue to resonate. Hopefully this impact is powerful enough to touch you.”

Judge Lynn C. Rooney, First Justice at Lawrence District Court, said she was impressed by the students’ topics, writing and presentation some which did without notes.

“Everybody did a fantastic job. You had a confidence, command and presence about you,” Rooney said.

Rios was one of nine students from Lawrence, Andover, North Andover, Methuen and Salem, N.H., who delivered speeches on issues ranging from gender equality, human trafficking, gay rights and immigration at Lawrence District Court. They were judged on originality, delivery and effectiveness. Each contestant received a $100 scholarship with Rios winning a $500 scholarship.

When his name was announced at a dinner at Salvatore’s, Rios’ mother, Sonia, hugged and kissed him.

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