Regardless of your nationality and where you grew up, we’re assuming that most of you have heard of The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo source: Smithsonian
In the U.S., today is the day that we have designated as a national holiday to honor his legacy.
Some states don’t recognize the holiday at all; some even celebrate Robert E. Lee on the same day. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday, but that does not mean it translates to any local observations.
For those areas that do recognize this leader by giving employees the day off and closing business, it’s still not necessarily celebrated in light of the message of this man. In many communities, this holiday has been — at best — translated into an exhortation of a day of service, where people may go out to build community gardens together, or perhaps volunteer at a shelter. Those are all good deeds that are worth doing, but they’re not quite in line with the work of Dr. King.
Here is a quote directly from the source:
“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1959
Dr. King was a civil rights leader, and his message was social change through non-violence.
Did you know that Dr. King was only 39 years old when he was assassinated?
That’s probably not that much older than you are today.
He first became known as a leader when he was 26 and led the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Another name you are probably familiar with that is associated with that event is Rosa Parks, the Black woman who refused to give up her seat.
The 1950s and 1960s probably seem like so far in the past that you can’t even relate to those times or imagine having any connection to them. We’re in 2022, after all. Why are we mentioning these historical figures, from a time when all we have are black-and-white photos? It’s so far back in history that that time is probably not at all relatable for you.
Mostly we want to bring attention to the legacy of someone who fought for change in this society. Who did so from a young age. Who acted on his beliefs, and believed in action.
Action is where leadership comes from.
Since you’re here on this lil ol’ blahg reading about MBA stuff, then presumably you’re interested in leadership of some kind, of that whole “making a difference” thing.
Spending some time today thinking about the ways that a significant leader of the past took action, the things that he stood for, the way he influenced people, is surely worthwhile.
There are plenty of other examples of leaders that you could similarly study, both contemporary and historical, though in the society of the U.S., very few of them are leaders of color. We figured it was a worthwhile opportunity to invite you to stop, and explore, and learn something or re-learn it about a man who lived his values (and died for them) and what his message was about.
Stanford has the King Papers Project in case you want to go on a deep dive to learn more.
Watch Dr. King speak to a group of high schoolers asking them what is their life blueprint:
“Each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives. The question is whether you have a proper, a solid, and a sound blueprint.” His language and speaking style may sound old-fashioned to our 21st century ears, yet his message is still meaningful today.
In our fast-paced TwitterTok culture, find time to reflect on what matters to you, find space to honor those who have come before, find energy to nurture yourself, and find courage to do the next right thing on your own personal journey towards the person you are becoming.