NOT The “I Have a Dream” Speech.

MLK mugshot: Birmingham, AL, 1963.

MLK mugshot: Birmingham, AL, 1963. Photo in public domain.

The Martin Luther King holiday often features stills and videos of Dr. King delivering his “I Have a Dream” during the March on Washington in 1963. And it is a brilliant speech.

But it is not his only brilliant speech. Dr. King, of course, delivered many more.

Since Norway has been in the news in the United States and around the world lately, (and January 15 is Dr. King’s actual birthday) today is the perfect day to present Dr. King’s Nobel acceptance speech and lecture.

In both the acceptance speech and lecture, he both indicts an unjust society while remaining boldly optimistic that it can change. It is quite the balancing act.

It is a balancing act that we are still trying to achieve: overcoming our “moral and spiritual lag” by choosing and embracing love.

(Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The committee members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament. Dr. King was the youngest recipient of the award at the time.)

A few excerpts. First, from his acceptance speech:

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Oprah’s Brilliant Master Class

No doubt you’ve seen or heard Oprah Winfrey’s powerhouse speech to accept the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the 75th Golden Globe ceremony on Sunday. No doubt it was delivered with confidence and passion.

75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Season 75

CREDIT: Paul Drinkwater/NBC. Courtesy Variety

But I have another question–did you return to read the speech?

Do yourself a favor. Read it. Note how she expertly joined concepts that would otherwise seem to be a jumbled, disjointed laundry list of subjects in lesser hands. In one speech–and, at about nine minutes, one relatively short speech–Winfrey covered lots of ground.

Courtesy NBC

She shared a snapshot of her childhood, paid homage to Sidney Poitier, acknowledged the fact that she is the first African American woman to win the award, thanked the people who supported her, defended the essential role of the media, told the story Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks’ role to pursue justice for Ms. Taylor and declared #timesup, weaving seemingly disparate ideas into a tapestry of history, heartbreak–and hope.

It was a tall order. And Winfrey delivered.

Examine the passages more closely:

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Hidden Figures: Showcasing the Best of Us. 

As of this writing, Hidden Figures is the number one film in the country!

I am so excited about that. And I remain excited about the film. I can’t wait to see it again!

Unless you’ve been hiding underneath a rock, then you are now familiar with a story that had been quite unfamiliar to most for far too long: The story of the African American women whose computations helped make space flight happen–among them, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson.

Indeed, Johnson was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in November 2015. But at least she is getting some well-earned and long-overdue recognition.

(Take a moment to hear a bit about her journey in her own words below.)

The film doesn’t beat the viewer over the head regarding racism. It doesn’t have to. While showing the tensions of the era and the obvious foot-dragging to delay desegregation (even though the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education regarding school integration) the film shows the more subtle, casual yet no less devastating versions of both racism and sexism. Even still, you get to see these brilliant women as whole people. You see them with their families and at church and with each other.

For me, it’s not just the fact that these brilliant women are lived and worked in Virginia, my home state. Or that they are all members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., of which I am a proud member. (We are 109 years young today!)

The film celebrates the best of us and shows how powerful we are when we work together.

Though we know the late-John Glenn’s story–as an astronaut and as a Senator–we can see once again that he, too, represented the best of us.

Oh, what we can accomplish together when smart, brilliant people are free to innovate, create and solve problems without constraint.

The sky is hardly the limit. As these Alpha Kappa Alpha ladies figured.

Wednesday Word: What We Mean When We Speak About Women.

May I have a Wednesday Word with you?

Weeks later, and I am still thinking of Michelle Obama’s brilliant, master class of a speech in the wake of Donald Trump’s gross and vile statements recorded while he was working (and not palling around in a locker room). That’s a testament to how powerful her speech was. I also am thinking of the near-universal outrage expressed after the release of the recording.

But all outrage is not equal. And it was a reminder for us all to take greater care when we write and speak about each other as human beings. Take a look at the following quotes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”

how-not-to-sound-sexist

Illustration by Leah Goren for TIME Magazine

I appreciate their outrage, but look deeper at their statements. “As the father of three girls” and “championed and revered” lessen the impact of what otherwise would have been strong statements.

Why? Two reasons. The first statement makes it seem as if women only can be spoken about in relation to other men, as if it takes a man to validate us human beings. The “championed and revered” phrase in the second statement otherizes and patronizes women, as if we are some sort of odd creatures instead of–wait for it–human beings.

 

Emily L. Hauser perfectly captures this sense:

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Michelle’s “Master Class.”

This is a can’t-miss speech.

Courtesy C-SPAN

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke in Manchester, New Hampshire last week at a presidential campaign event on behalf of Secretary Hillary Clinton. But this speech was no mere campaign stump speech. It was a speech that Washington Post columnist Jena McGregor described as a “master class” that “…should be required viewing for every leader.”

Her speech named the disrespect so often aimed at women and rebuked it. And in so doing, the First Lady elevated our discourse, reminding us to remember the dignity and worth of every human being, young and old.

Her speech demands our attention. Make time to watch and listen to her important words.

Speaking of the First Lady, make sure you read To the First Lady, With Love. Its lead essay was written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

About the First Debate: Vice President Biden Cuts to the Quick.

I didn’t watch the first debate between Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Monday nights are my early-to-bed nights. But frankly, I was not keen on watching the rude and boorish behavior that I knew would be on display, either.

Sadly, Trump didn’t disappoint in that regard. I found myself deeply dismayed as I read the debate highlights–particularly Trump’s glib attitude toward paying taxes, among other things.

Then I watched Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at Drexel University this morning for National Voter Registration Day and was struck when he asked,

What in the hell is he [Trump] talking about?

Your thoughts echo my own, Mr. Vice President.

Watch below as he shares his insights.

By the way, Trump’s performance should be a cautionary tale against winging it when it comes to delivering an important presentation. Respect yourself and your audience. Take preparation seriously.

Courtesy CBS News

 

Monday Motivation: Be a Force!

Musical Muse: The Star Wars Theme song by John Williams, played by students from the École de l’Harmonie St Édouard and École secondaire de La Seigneurie.

Courtesy Matthieu Pierrot

Welcome to the Week!

I viewed the video above a few days ago. It made me smile then, and makes me smile now. Most of all, it inspires me to share this simple message today: Be an unstoppable force, whether you’re speaking or riding–or whatever you find yourself doing over the course of the week.

Use the force to stay motivated this week!

 

 

 

The National Mall’s New Museum: A Presidential Preview.

Watch remarks made by President Obama this evening on the eve of the opening of the Smithsonian’s African American Museum of History and Culture.

Both the best of times, and troubled times–that describes where we are today as a nation, and describes the experience that a museum strives to capture. 

This is not just a museum that tells African American stories–it tells American stories. 

The museums’s opening day tomorrow promises to be both amazing and inspiring, with the speeches to match. 

Stay tuned!

Courtesy PBS Newshour