Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He’s regarded as one of the world’s greatest non-violent civil rights leaders. His voice and vision are still an inspiration to leaders of all ages.
His most famous speech was given on August 28, 1963 to about 225,000 people during the March on Washington for jobs and freedom.
His talk, under the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, was scheduled to be the climax of many speeches, songs and prayers led by clergymen, civil rights leaders and entertainers including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Dr. King’s favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson.
His presentation was called “Normalcy, Never Again” and his words highlighted the trials and tribulations of the African American Community. King’s speech started slowly that day, but he continued to follow his prepared text. John Lewis, who had addressed the march earlier said, “I thought it was a good speech, but it was not nearly as powerful as many I had heard him make.”
As he began to finish his remarks, the voice of Mahalia Jackson cried out from behind him saying, “Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream.”
At that moment, Dr. King left his prepared notes and said…
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends—so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal.'”
The rest of his speech described in vivid detail his vision for America and all Americans. As soon as he left the stage that day, his talk became known as the “I HAVE A DREAM” speech.
Once he stopped talking about the negative aspects of poverty, racism and violence and began to improvise in a more positive way, his speech went from good to great to legendary.
I think all leaders can benefit from Dr. King’s wisdom that day and start talking more about our dreams for a better future. Our co-workers, clients, family members, and friends need to hear positive messages from us. There is no denying that life is difficult, but spending too much time talking about our problems doesn’t make our world a better place. The people you work with and live with need to have hope for the future.
All positive leaders can benefit from getting better at articulating a vision that inspires themselves and others to act with a sense of urgency. As the Bible says…”without vision people will perish.”
Take some time today to reflect on your dream for the future and start sharing your vision with the people in your world. I think it’s also important for you to find someone like Mahalia Jackson so if you start talking more about your problems than your vision this week, he/she can cry out to you and say…”Tell them about the dream. Tell them about the dream.”
Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin