"He said 'together' when others said 'separate'. He said 'peace' when others said 'war'. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together."

Mrs. Ellis’ second grade class at Hellgate Elementary School received a very tall visitor from the University of Montana football team on Monday, to read a story about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Noah Ambuehl, a tight end from Great Falls Central continued to read to the class.

"Martin went wherever people needed help. In April of 1968 he went to Memphis, Tennessee where he was helping garbage collectors who were on strike. He walked with them  and talked with them, sang with them and prayed with them. On his second day there, he was shot and he died.'"

Ambuehl, a redshirt freshman, reacted to the story, and to Mrs. Ellis’ second graders.

“To me it’s just kind of crazy to see how far the world has come since what he (Dr. King) did and to see that already knew the story, yet it’s good for them to get a deeper understanding of what he did,” said Ambuehl. “It makes me happy to see these little kids being so happy. They have a big smile on their faces all the time, and it really brings me joy.”

Mrs. Ellis was grateful that the school sponsors the guest readers every year on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

“This means a lot,” said Mrs. Ellis. “For one, that there are visitors who are willing to come in and show interest in what they’re learning and that they’re invested in come in and teaching them something that they might not already know. We’ll spend the rest of the afternoon going into the book and talking about him for the rest of the week. And we’ll talk about what it means to be a community, and that’s mainly our focus.”

Damien Dressler is the early grades principal at Hellgate Elementary.

“Today, we’re having our ‘Read for Peace’ event,” said Dressler. “We have readers from the university coming over and reading a story to our students, and then explaining the history of Dr. King and the impact he had on the world.”

Dressler said that children this young living in Missoula simply have no reference point about the racism that King experienced in the Deep South.

“I think this is a piece of history for the students at this age,” he said. “It almost feels like fiction to them because they don’t have a handle on it, especially at this age, but I think it’s very important that children understand the reality of what Martin Luther King went through, how he fought for equal rights, and his stance on the nonviolent approach to bring peace to the world.”

Following the reading, the children used their crayons to make pictures about what they heard in the book. Some drew Dr. King, while others drew people holding hands and praying, with another drawing a picture of the American flag.