Today we celebrate the birth and life of a great American prophet, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I reflect on his life and listen to his speeches, I am moved by how clearly he saw his vision and how well he was able to communicate it to inspire others to action. In this video clip, Dr. King reminds us that our collective dream of justice, freedom, equality, community is inevitable. Although Dr. King’s dream has yet to be fulfilled, I share his certainty that our beloved community is sure to become a reality.
What allowed Dr. King to wholeheartedly believe in the reality of his dream inspite of the pervasive brutality of racial segregation and the long history of discrimintation and oppression in the country he so loved? I believe that there are three clear lessons that we can take from this speech about the power of a dream. These lessons can help us maintain our own dreams for justice and equality as well as our inividual dreams of positive change in our own lives. So what does this speech reveal about the power of a dream?
1. Dreams require that we focus more on our vision than on our circumstances. In Dr. King’s speeches, he spent more time talking about his vision than describing the reality of the current situation. This is not to suggest that he had his head in the sand. Dr. King’s continual focus on his vision provided him with the strength to choose different actions than many of his contemporaries. He was able to act differently because of the clarity of his vision. Dr. King went beyond positive thinking, to positive knowing! Listen to the certainty and conviction in his voice. This is an appropriate lesson for all of us to internalize. The clearer we are on what we want and the more time we spend visualizing our goals, the more confident we will become in the certainty of their accomplishment. Likewise, the easier it will be for us to choose actions that support that vision. Unfortunately, we often spend more time talking about what we don’t want, than we do imagining our goals. Dr. King’s power of action was fueled by the clarity of his dream.
2. Dreams require that we discipline our selves to live in support of the dream. In the speech the night before his assignation, Dr. King acknowledges that death might be a necessary part of the journey to fulfill his dream. More importantly, he stated that he was willing to pay that price. While this is a grand sacrifice, this is not the only sacrifice that Dr. King was forced to pay for his dream. Dr. King’s discussion of how “history has seized me” acknowledged that he was but a man but was committed to live a life bigger than himself because of the power of his vision. Likewise, there is a price each of us must pay for the accomplishment of our dream. It might be a sacrifice of sleep, it may be sacrificing relationships or finances; it will most certainly include sacrificing our comfort. Dr. King was able to live these acts of sacrifice daily because of the passion with which he embraced his dream, and we can too.
3. Dreams require that we invite the participation of others in the accomplishment of our dreams. Thank God Dr. King did not keep his dream to himself. Dr. King’s descriptions of his vision was so vivid and so passionate that it awakened similar dreams in others (and continues to do so). As great and courageous a man as he was, Dr. King was NOT the Civil Rights Movement and did not accomplish all these gains ALONE. Dr. King’s dream was so big that it would be impossible for him to achieve it on his own. He needed the cooperation and support of hundreds of thousands of people. Likewise, we can not accomplish our dreams alone. We often require the support of our families, friends, colleagues, fellow citizens, ect. to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. Dr. King’s life teaches us that in order to get the cooperation of our supporters, and at times our enemies, we must clearly communicate our vision in both word and deed.
Please share your thoughts on the lessons you have learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how you celebrate his birthday and his legacy. I look forward to hearing from you.