The American psyche was shook to its core with the inspirational movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today marks the 48th annual recognition of the historical march on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech he delivered in Washington, DC.
While a symbolic unveiling of the King Memorial in Washington planned for today was cancelled due storms, it is still an opportunity for reflection and admiration for Dr. King and a generation of those who set a standard.
The historical landmark is long overdue thanks in part to the tireless efforts of civil rights leaders and other activists. They championed to get the statue erected and their quest to get the memorial is only a small part of an ongoing journey.
Dr. King laid the groundwork with his courageous acts, speeches, and writings. In so many ways, the King memorial is an opportunity to retrace the steps of Dr. King and his principles. In fact, the most prolific leaders among us should consider five ways that the King memorial and his legacy compels better leadership:
1. Consistent civic engagement – King took great strides to promote greater civic engagement by compelling people to build consensus and mobilize.
2. Be inquisitive –Without asking questions and challenging the system, much of what King accomplished would not have come to fruition. It is imperative to always ask questions.
3. Show Commitment – Numerous sacrifices were made by King and others who made it a point repeatedly to be there, be present, and be active.
4. Be of Service – King served others tirelessly with a heart of service and the goal to be of support to others.
5. Create Legacy – King and other civil rights activists always considered ways to build the movement for equality. Likewise, leaders should ponder ways to create the next generation of leaders, advocates, and activists.
While we can appreciate the historical context of King’s contributions, a memorial is only the beginning. It signifies an opportunity for another generation to appreciate the sacrifices made for equality. More importantly, the unveiling should be a wake-up call and a call to action.
-Dawn McCoy, author of Leadership Building Blocks: An Insider’s Guide to Success