COEUR d’ALENE — Don't be a little elephant.
Be a big one.
"The big elephants, they do what’s right and what’s good," educator and professional actor Stu Cabe said to a room full of Post Falls fifth-graders in Lake City Church on Thursday. "The little elephants do what’s selfish and popular. The big elephants say, ‘I listen to my heart and my head.’ The little elephants say, ‘I don’t care about either of those things. I just care about me.'"
Cabe discussed a TV program he watched, where little "punk" elephants bullied and killed white rhinos on a wildlife refuge until six mature "big" elephants were brought in to stand up for the little rhinos and put a stop to their abuse.
He pointed to the images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the screens that hung on each side of the sanctuary stage.
"I would suggest that guy in the human world, he might have been one of the biggest big elephants we’ve ever had,” Cabe said. "He’s the guy who came in and said, ‘No, that’s not what we do here,’ and the little elephants were like, ‘That’s what we’ve always done,’ and he’s like, ‘We don’t do that anymore. That’s not what we do here.’”
This practical pachyderm analogy was at the heart of Cabe's speech, which he delivered to about 1,400 fifth-graders from the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls school districts during the 33rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fifth Grade Kids Program. The Post Falls session immediately followed the earlier Coeur d'Alene session.
Cabe encouraged the fifth-graders to practice the same kind of courage shown by the big elephants and to promote peace and kindness the way King did during his lifetime.
“He’s the one who came in, and just like our elephants here, he didn’t fight, he just said, ‘That’s not what we do here,’” Cabe said. "You’re in this auditorium today because half a century ago, that big elephant started recruiting other big elephants and started saying, ‘That’s not what we do here.' Now you’re sitting here celebrating that because guess what, fifth-graders? You’re the next big elephants."
Cabe is the owner of Colorado-based Ovation Company, a school resource organization that focuses on positive school climate and improved student achievement with the purpose of helping students "work hard, play fair and be nice."
His speech was followed by student essay presentations. Several students representing their schools shared their writings with the audience, describing how certain King quotes have moved them.
When McCall Willey of Greensferry Elementary took the microphone, his message was clear: He chooses love.
"'I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,'” he said, quoting King.
"This is powerful because love is the most important and powerful thing in the world," McCall said. "What this quote means to me is, if there’s too much hate in the world, love can make a difference. If someone can make a difference with love, positivity and determination, then make the world a better place.
"Love is a better choice to choose. Hate is horrible and discriminating. That’s why I’ll always stick to love."
Cassie Byers of Prairie View Elementary was inspired by King's "I have a dream" speech.
"These words were said by a man who was assassinated on April 4, 1968,” she said. “His words speak to me because he believes the people should only be judged by their character or their actions ... not their looks."
The program, presented by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, also included dance routines and musical performances by the students.
Since the program's inception, more than 36,000 fifth-graders have participated in the event.
"As we celebrate the 33rd year of this historical program, the KCTFHR continues to have a front window into the world through the eyes of children as they learn about the contributions and sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," KCTFHR President Christie Wood said in a press release. "In the world of a child, there is no color that prohibits opportunity, love, justice and a united nation. We are all better through the eyes of our children. This program will continue to teach us that."
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 15.