Dalton Sherman of Dallas, TX as the keynote speaker at the Dallas Independent School District launch of the new school year. For more information, please visit http://www.dallasisd.org/.
Dallas fifth-grader Dalton Sherman earning fans, fame as a figure of speeches
12:28 AM CDT on Saturday, August 23, 2008
By KATHERINE LEAL UNMUTH / The Dallas Morning News
Thousands of Dallas teachers are talking about the little boy with the big voice who wowed them earlier this week at a big beginning-of-school pep rally at American Airlines Center.
Who is this kid?, they wondered.
At 10, Dalton Sherman is a speech-making pro. Since winning a big oratory competition in Dallas last January, hes performed at numerous churches and events all over Dallas. He even opened an event for famed poet Maya Angelou.
He has the it factor, said Dawn Blair, Daltons godmother. Like Tiger has it, Obama has it. You cant put your finger on it.
And since his Wednesday speech, which left many teachers cheering and others in tears, his family has been inundated by phone calls and e-mails.
A talkative kid, Dalton bounces up and down on a couch in his familys home talking about his craft. His parents call it his gift.
I try to shake and move when Im getting ready to go on, Dalton says, while demonstrating his movements. I walk out there and Im like here it comes—no turning back now. Then I just begin.
Dalton is a fifth-grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. His family lives down the street from Kimball High School in southern Dallas in a neat ranch house filled with photos. His brother Demosthenes, 13, is an aspiring astronaut and his sister, Deasure Crawford, 22, an accountant.
Dalton is an A student, plays basketball and is a blue belt in karate. His favorite books are The Magic Tree House series. He won his first oratory competition in the first grade. His family describes him as energetic and competitive. His motto is Im in it to win it.
Talking in front of 17,000 people at American Airlines Center was his biggest event yet. The applause motivated him, especially when he gestured and gave shout-outs to different neighborhoods, like Oak Cliff and Pleasant Grove, telling teachers to help children no matter where theyre from.
When I hear them cheering, its like, oh yeah, theyre feeling me, he said.
Then there came the end.
I felt drained. I kept shaking. Thats what happens after every speech, Dalton said.
His dad, Carlos, was impressed.
He rocked the house. Im super-proud, he said.
Dalton turns to his dad. You cried? he asked.
Yeah, I cried. Daddy cries too, Mr. Sherman said, hugging his son.
Daltons speech was directed toward teachers.
We need you, he told them. They played a big role in preparing him for his big performance. Both his oratory coach from school, Irene Redmond, a fourth-grade teacher, and mother Donna Sherman, a DISD fifth-grade teacher, coached him all summer in preparation for his performance. They focus on proper diction and pronunciation of words.
Ms. Redmond said she immediately recognized his big vocabulary when she began coaching him, and he worked hard in response.
He lives to please you, she said. He feels disappointed when he doesnt.
I hope that I touch a lot of people, Dalton added.
School district officials contacted the family last May about giving the convocation speech for teachers. Dallas ISD officials wrote it.
In June, he memorized the words. Then he practiced giving the speech up to three times a week at his familys church, Concord Missionary Baptist. His mother and Ms. Redmond stood in the balcony as he practiced his movements and the built-in pauses to punctuate the text.
Mrs. Sherman uses a worn book of her grandfathers, Natural Drills in Expression, published in 1909, to coach her son on pronunciation.
Demonstrating, she reads a sentence. Dalton repeats it— to dare, to do, to die. He loves the book.
Dalton wants to be a news anchor someday, but hes got even bigger plans.
Maybe after that, Ill try to be president, he says. I want to be the next Obama.