Inspiring And Enabling People
To Make A Difference
The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Day. The day that many campaigners, black and white, rich and poor, fought to secure as a day of remembrance. A campaign promoted memorably by one fan – Stevie Wonder, in his song “Happy Birthday”. The first birthday celebration took place in 1986, 18 years after King’s life was brought to an end on April 4th 1968.
By the time of his death, King’s legacy was already unfolding. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Washington Monument had been delivered nearly five years earlier on August 28, 1963 and his friendship with the leading Democratic Presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy, was representative of his status as the foremost authority on civil rights and social injustice.
I first became aware of Martin Luther King through televised recordings of his speeches on various documentary programmes as a child. Later, as a student of history, I learned that, just like most human beings, King was not perfect. However, few can doubt that what he stood for and what he set out to achieve were goals that transformed the lives of millions in his native United States and have subsequently affected people all over the world ever since. His non-violent approach to civil dispute echoed that of Gandhi and preceded Mandela; whilst his oratory and cry for change has been the foundation of presidential campaigns right up to the present day. I’m sure we’ll see and hear a lot more of it over the coming months.
My question for you today though is rooted more in the message behind the message that people like Martin Luther King carry. As they march out in defence of the rights and humanity of their brothers and sisters on the planet, what they demonstrate is a fixation on serving others. I thought I’d share this today because it is traditional at this time of year, to set goals, create resolutions and fix our sights on what we can get from our world; but I wonder if the following might be a more energising question:
“What can we give to the world in 2012?”
I was being interviewed today by someone interested in the social enterprise setup of my business and I found myself answering one question quicker than every other. The question was; “Why do you spend so much of your time helping others?” My immediate response was; “I feel I should because I can.” Now, I’m no angel, and I’ve a long way to go before I’ve even scratched the surface of my ambitions for making a difference; but I am doing all I can, where I can. That’s the real legacy of Great people; it’s not what they do, but what they inspire other people to do, long after they are gone.
Happy Birthday to ya Martin!