Words of Inspiration & Leadership from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 12, 2010 - 9:37 am 15 Comments

Being A Drum Major

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. Say that I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things in life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”

Triple Evils

The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and WAR are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. The issues change in accordance with the political and social climate of our nation and world. Some contemporary manifestations are in italics below.

POVERTY – materialism, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, slums…

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it. The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty … The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.” *

RACISM – prejudice, apartheid, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, ageism, discrimination against differently abled, stereotypes…

“Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission. It is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.” *

WAR – militarism, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, media violence, drugs, child abuse…

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” *

To work against the Triple Evils, you need to: develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the “Six Principles of Nonviolence”; and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the “Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change.”

Source: “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston: Beacon Press, 1967.

In a column of reflection on the American people and their politcal culture, journalist and political author, Thurston Clarke made this observation about our society… He said:

The last politican to risk a discourging word about our thin-skinned culture, about our behavior and our character as a nation was Robert F. Kennedy, forty years ago…
Writing in the New York Times ,condemning the Vietnam War he said this: ” Once we thought, with Jefferson, that we were the “best hope” for all mankind. But now we seem to have become something else.”
In California, he echoed these words when he said:
America had once stood for decency and for justice, for confidence and hope, but now we have become something else. Kennedy continued his cultural critique with this observation: There is a failing of national generousity and compassion, there is an unwillingness to sacrifice.”

Barak Obama (2008) picked up this theme of political and social introspection when he observed this:
” part of the reason (for our economic crisis) occurred because we have been living through an era of profound irresponsibility. We all bear some responsibility for where we are now, as a country… And we bear our shared responsibilites for where we want to be in the future…

Homily/Reflection: Leadership and the Capacity for Hope 2009-

When addressing the young people of South Africa in 1966, Robert F. Kennedy made this observation about leadership and hope. It was the same passge that Ted Kennedy used at his funeral… It goes like this:

Some believe that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements of thought and action have flowed from the work of a single person…

These individuals moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each person can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

It is from numerous diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.

… Those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mighiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

In part, one of the foundational reasons for a church community to exist is to be an active witness for justice; to be a compassionate alternative to inequality ; to be a voice proclaiming liberty and dignity, as birthrights; and to be a vigilant and insistent beacon of hope in an otherwise ethically dim, grimy, and often callous world.

As Time reporter Nancy Gibbs recently wrote about Obama, leadership, and the promising shift in political consciousness:

“Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope…..

We get the leaders we deserve. And if we lift them up and then cut them off, refuse to follow unless they are taking us to Disneyland, then no President, however eloquent, however historic his mandate or piercing his sense of what needs to be done, can take us where we refuse to go.

Scanning through all the media headlines, searching through various
political pundits, the only reality we can surmise is that he will give our nation a new, optimistic, and uplifitng new sense of direction… How do I know? I will take it from the President elect himself, when on the campaign trail in NH, last summer:
” We have been told that we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. They will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We been asked to pause for a reality check; we’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about having hope.”

There is nothing false about having hope! There is nothing weak about having a strong vision, and there is nothing timid about the necessity to lead by live up to one’s own values or sense of right…

Dr. King was far less concilliatory, far more strident, more insistent what his example does cogently life up for us is the dynamism of leadership, and the source and the force that authenticity gives to being a leader…

Reflection: MLK and The Qualities of Leadership

When a reporter once asked Dr. King about when he will stop in his war protests, or when he would stop standin gup for the poor, his response was this:

Sir, I am sorry that you do not know me. I am not a consensus leader. I do not determine what is right and what is wrong by looking at the budget… Or taking a Gallop poll.. Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus…

There comes a time when we must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but we must do it because conscience tells us it is right. …”

A Reflection of Your Image

I am your church, your congregation, your community , your family… Make of me what you will; I shall reflect you as clearly as a mirror. If outwardly, my appearance is pleasing and inviting, it is because you have made me so. If within my spiritual atmosphere is kindly, yet earnest; reverent, yet friendly; worshipful, yet sympathetic; it is but the manifestation of the spirit, outlook, and attituides of those whom belong to me.

But if you should, by chance, find me a bit cold, or dull, I beg of you not to condemn me, for I imitate the kind of life I receive from you. Of this you may be assured, I will respond instantly to your every wish that is practically and humanly expressed, for I reflect the image of your own soul. Make of me what you will.

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