Archive for January 15, 2015

Three Important Lessons We Can Learn From Dr. King’s Legacy

Exactly 85 years ago to the day, a child was born in Atlanta, Georgia named Michael King, Jr who would change the world. His father would eventually change his name in honor of the German leader of the Protestant Reformation, and it was by that name – Martin Luther King Jr. – that the world would remember him nearly a century later.

Few names in modern American history ring more powerfully than Martin Luther King’s. He remains the only person born in the 20th Century after which we celebrate a federal holiday. His name is synonymous with great speeches, with inspiring hope, and with the brutal assassination which took his life before he even reached the age of 40. His name is still invoked constantly in modern political discussions, and he arguably left a more profound, longer-lasting legacy than nearly any other American over the last century. When you think of great historical leaders, Martin Luther King’s name constantly makes the short list.

So what can we learn from Dr. King’s legacy? What knowledge can we apply to our own lives today to make the world a better place? It would be impossible to list all of them, but here are a few of the most important lessons from Dr. King’s life and legacy, as represented by some how the most powerful passages from his speeches:

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness – only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate – only love can do that.” – One of Dr. King’s most well-remembered quotes is also the one perhaps most relevant to our own lives. Our political system and even our popular culture are all heavily centered around the concept of conflict and hate. There is a whole industry in entertainment and politics built around the idea of outrage – we’re supposed to get mad at the people on the other side of the partisan fence, or we’re supposed to hate the celebrities who annoy us or do outrageous things. Hate may be an animating force – that is, it may get us out of our seats to do something, but that “something” is hardly productive or positive. Our world won’t get better until we stop revolving our collective existence around hate, and our collective existence won’t get better until we personally make the choice to stop the cycle of hate and try to find common ground with all people.
  • “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now… I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.” – MLK said those prophetic words in a speech delivered the day before he died in a speech titled “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop”. Reading those words 55 years later, after all of the ups and downs we’ve experienced as a society, you still can feel their power to lift us up and make us hope for something better. There’s also a lesson there for all of us: leadership is sometimes as simple as Inspiring A Shared Vision. We want to be reminded that the world can be better, and sometimes it’s up to us as leaders to do the reminding. We may not have the platform of Dr. King, but all of us have the potential to lift others up.
  • “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – King’s most famous line was spoken over 50 years ago, but it still describes a future we have not yet attained. We still have much to learn in how we treat those different from us, whether the lines that separate us are gender, race, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, or any other countless divisions which still exist, and which motivate people to act with fear or hate. We will always be a nation of many different types of people, and those differences should be celebrated and embraced – but we can also work toward a future in which those differences no longer cause us to push away our fellow humans.

Dr. King was a revolutionary leader in many respects, and next week we will take just 24 hours to celebrate his legacy. What we do after the celebration will determine our own legacy.

Is there a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote which resonates the most with you? Tweet us @TeamTRI with your favorite!


5 Important Communication Lessons From Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech

Over forty years ago, Martin Luther King electrified America with his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech. His words proved to be a standard for understanding the social and political disorder of the time and gave the nation a terminology to communicate what was happening. On January 15th, people all over the world will celebrate the birthday of the man who changed this world with his passion and drive for equality. You can watch the speech yourself to see how Dr. King captivated his audience to bring about change.

Dr. King was an amazing communicator, and he knew that he had a powerful message that his audience needed to hear. With communication changing rapidly, we may no longer in the golden age of oratory, but we can still learn from Dr. King’s example.

Speeches do not need to be written out just to be read directly from the sheet of paper. It’s important when giving a speech that you speak in a tone that is conversational but not casual, powerful but not thunderous. Many people think Dr. King read his speech word for word, but he did not. He did have a written text in front of him to refer to, but he never read directly from the paper to his audience. He was in his zone and knew the importance of his words. He knew he was not only creating an experience for the masses who were watching him in Washington DC, but also for the audience that would be hearing this message long into the future. Dr. King’s style implored his audience to be inspired to bring change.

Below are five lessons from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech which you utilize in your next big presentation:

1. Emphasize your message by repeating phrases at the beginning of sentences. “I have a dream” was repeated at the beginning of eight different sentences in Dr. King’s speech.

2. Repeat key “theme” words throughout your speech. If you listen to Dr. King’s speech you will begin to hear his repetition of certain words. For instance, the word “freedom,” was used twenty times throughout his speech. It did not sound like annoying repetition; it was just a technique to remind the audience about the theme of his speech.

3. Use specific examples to “ground” your arguments. This technique helps you to earn creditability with your audience. For instance, when Dr. King declares “Five score years ago…”he is referring to Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address speech which began “Four score and seven years ago…” This allusion is particularly poignant given that King was speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King also referenced the Declaration of Independence and the Bible.

4. Use metaphors to highlight contrasting concepts. Metaphors allow you to associate your speech’s concepts with concrete images and emotions. This descriptive language can help your audience members emotionally connect with your words. Here are a few sentences from the speech utilizing strong imagery: “joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity” [paragraph 2] and “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice” [6]

5. Be Passionate. Throughout his speech, you can see Dr. King believed that everything in his speech could come true. You must believe in the goal you are setting. He was passionate about his dream, and knew that if enough people would see his passion, they would become rally to the cause. Remember, the next time you are giving a presentation, or trying to persuade an audience to listen to the meaning of your message, the passion must first begin with YOU.

We’ll be talking more about Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy throughout the entire month of January. Do you have your own lesson from the speech? Let us know on Twitter @TeamTRI!