It was 27 years ago, on Aug. 28, 1963, that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial here. King's electrifying remarks came at the end a day-long rally attended by several hundred thousand civil-rights marchers.

Today's holiday marks the official observance of the 62nd anniversary of his birth, Jan. 15, 1929. The theme of this year's celebration is "The Power of Hope: The Living Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr."

What do young people hope for and dream of in this time of uncertainty, with war, drugs, and recession dominating the headlines? Area students were asked what they would say if they were to give King's "I Have a Dream" speech today.

Most said that it was a hard question, but they all gave it serious thought, with one exception: a boy, about 8 years old, who was playing with the adult toys at The Sharper Image the day after Christmas. He said he would answer the question if he were paid 50 cents.

In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. -- Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream" Almost all of the students have a dream of peace. When asked if they worry about the war with Iraq, they all say that they are very concerned. "It's wrong that we always go in somewhere else to protect other people. We should start in our own back yard to change violence and homelessness," said Adrienne Freda, an 11th-grader at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Suitland.

Imani Coleman, a student at Morgan State University in Baltimore and a holiday employee at a Smithsonian gift shop, dreams of "peace and unity for all people," as do Marqus Clark, a sixth grader at St. Anthony's, and Glenn Wells, a library technician at the book information desk at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library here.

Lily Kibour, a native of Ethiopia and a sophomore at Lockhaven College in Pennsylvania, would not change a word of King's "Dream," but she hopes that "the war in the Gulf will be solved soon. We have friends there," she said.

I have a dream that one day ... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers.

Duane McGill, a 10th-grader at Dunbar High School, dreams of unity, when "all the races will come together as one." Jaha Booker, in the fifth grade at Thomson Elementary School in northwest Washington, said that she remembered the "hand-in-hand part" of King's speech the best. When asked if King's dream about sisters and brothers had come true today, she said that it had not, "because blacks and whites live in different parts of the city."

I have a dream that {every state} will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

"Martin Luther King had it right the first time. If I wrote the speech today, I would use the same words," said Issac Harper of Suitland. John Crowell, a senior at Suitland High School, is concerned about "freedom of expression and speech." He says he worries about the growing censorship of art, music and school newspapers.

Anthony Vesels, a third-grader at Kimball Elementary School in the District, "hopes for all people to be free, that everyone is treated the same, and that we have respect for others." Keenan West, in the 10th grade at the District's School Without Walls, wishes that "everyone could be equal."

I have a dream that one day ... the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight.

Alwin Sharples, a 10th-grader at Dunbar High School, wants to "get rid of nuclear weapons, violence over drugs and pollution." Kelly Green, a seventh-grader at Rabaut Junior High School, echoes those sentiments.

"I dream that all young black males will stop killing each other," said Nicole Thomas, a senior at LaReine High School in Suitland. She has lost several friends in the last few years to violence, and said, "It's so bad I can't even cry any more."

"My dream is to bring everybody back who was close to me that died," said District resident Azalea Brown, 16, who recently graduated from the Jobs Corps in Pennsylvania. Six of her friends have died in street violence since 1987.