14 Jan King’s words needed today
By Joe McLeod
Kings Words Needed Today
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a place King called a “hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” It was a call for justice and an anthem that would eventually resound throughout the world in pursuit of equality and unity.
We honor Dr. King for his leadership throughout the Civil Rights movement, remembering the struggles he and many others endured in the quest for freedom and fair treatment under the law. He boldly asserted that America had not lived up to its creed spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, stating that “All men are created equal.” He cast a vision of what a more perfect union would look like by not judging people based on what they look like.
We can learn much from Dr. King, including the raw power of language. As an American, I am moved by the meaning and message of King’s words. As a communicator, I continue to marvel at the imagery, poetic structure and eloquent delivery that helped etch that message deep into my soul.
In today’s world of social media and toxic political climate, words are recklessly thrown around with the assumption that the posting of dogmatic opinions and blasting the “other side” will somehow change things for the better. Perhaps persuasion is not the ultimate objective, but rather the affirmation we feel for speaking out and disparaging those with whom we disagree. Changing minds is either a false assumption or a lagging afterthought.
Dr. King did not find satisfaction in merely speaking his mind. His goal was to penetrate the hearts and minds of all people to improve the plight African-Americans plagued by injustice, and his words served a purpose greater than self-satisfaction. He carefully and intentionally used language to move the needle and bring about change. Not everyone was persuaded then and, unfortunately, not everyone is persuaded now. But the fact that we celebrate his life this weekend is a testament to the sustaining impact he rendered upon our nation.
The power of language cuts both ways. While much of what we read on our screens promotes anger and division, words can also offer healing and inspire unity. King stated, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”
Let us follow King’s example.
Joe McLeod is the managing partner of McLeod Communications.