Today’s Monday Motivation is a quote from Jackie Robinson, a man who fought to desegregate American life–most notably, on the baseball diamond.
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. –Jackie Robinson
Robinson, of course, had quite an impact on many lives in our country, and beyond our shores. And we will be able to learn more about his impact in the new Ken Burns documentary, “Jackie Robinson.” It airs in two parts–tonight and tomorrow–on PBS. The President and First Lady also appear in the documentary.
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” given on April 3, was the last speech Dr. King delivered.
Read the text and listen to the speech below. I’ve also included a recording of Robert Kennedy delivering the sad news about Dr. King’s assassination to a shocked crowd in Indiana.
Finally, follow Rep. John Lewis’ insights on Dr. King’s assassination on Twitter.
And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” audio.
Robert Kennedy’s announcement of Dr. King’s assassination.
Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last. Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Newtown. The Navy Yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernardino. Too many. –President Barack Obama
Our country will celebrate Martin Luther King Day, this year on January 18. We speak–almost ritually–about his “I Have a Dream” speech, and his exhortations about the importance of the content of our characters.
But we need to remember Dr. King’s quote about feeling the “fierce urgency of now” about a few issues. Gun safety is one of them.
Few issues elicit such powerful emotion from President Obama like gun safety issues. Little wonder: More than 100,000 Americans are shot each year, and more than 18,000 of them are minors.
Since Congress won’t act to enact sensible gun safety legislation, the President is acting where he can.
View the speech below or read the transcript.
… Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. (Applause.) And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. (Applause.) They had rights, too. (Applause.)
Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.
Pope Francis, I love. He is a good man, with a warm heart and a big moral imagination. And I think he had such an impact on his visit here as he’s had around the world because he cares so deeply about the least of these. And in that sense, expresses what I consider to be as a Christian the essence of Christianity.
…I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way. That he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum, what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve. —President Barack Obama on Pope Francis, October 2, 2015
I understand the sentiment. I was glued to the television during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. I was amazed and inspired by his interactions with so many people, from the President to prisoners. So I took a few days to really consider what I could learn from him on both a personal and a professional level.
Clearly, he has much to teach from a religious and spiritual aspect. For example, I found myself asking what more I could do to serve. Is my busy schedule a valid concern, or am I hiding behind that as an excuse, and merely need to organize my schedule in a tighter way? And speaking of the aforementioned prisoners–does everyone have the capacity to change–even the most hardened prisoner? I’m not sure I agree. But his words persuaded me to at least consider the possibility.
That persuasive ability is not only the hallmark of a great religious leader, but also is the hallmark of a great speaker. Pope Francis excelled in that regard. So his addresses and remarks also can teach us about the power of speaking and connecting with an audience.
Among my personal three highlights? First, the remarks he delivered during his White House welcoming ceremony.
Today marks the return to school or work (or to school AND work) for many of us. Thoughts of homework, reports and grades quickly come to mind.
But one particular student (and grade) comes to mind for me today–Dr. Martin Luther King.
I thought about him on the 52nd anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” on August 28.
We all know the majesty, power and importance of the speech. What you may not know is that major parts of the speech were improvised. (But like most improvisations, key themes were practiced first.) Thank Mahalia Jackson for encouraging Dr. King to share his dream with the crowd that day.
Obviously, the speech was written and delivered by a master public speaker. No dispute there. But did you know the speech maker–considered one of the best American orators ever–received a “C” in public speaking during his first year at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA? Well, OK, “C+” was the actual grade, but still. (Hat tip to the National Constitution Center’s Constitution Daily for the find.)
I mention this today for this reason: getting a “C”–or any setback–isn’t fatal.
That “C” neither stopped Dr. King from becoming the valedictorian of his class, nor did it impair his ability to deliver important speeches–like his “I Have A Dream” speech, among others.
So. Tuck that thought of Dr. King’s “C” into your metaphorical backpack or briefcase today. Remember to retrieve it when the work gets hard or feels unrelenting. We are all challenged, but we can emerge, strengthened, on the other side.
We end Black History Month with a few speeches from a most “dangerous” leader: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some may find it hard to believe that the oft-quoted Dr. King–with his holiday and national memorial, as well as streets and schools named in his honor–was ever considered to be dangerous. The FBI thought otherwise. Alarmed by the increasing stature he won after delivering the I Have a Dream Speech, the FBI’s surveillance of Dr. King sped into overdrive.
Yes. The very speech that is now so familiar to so many.
The power of the “I Have a Dream” speech, however, was that it was built, in part, on the solid foundation of outstanding speeches and oratory before it. So read or listen to his 1955 Address to the Montgomery Improvement Association and his 1957 “Give Us the Ballot,” speech at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom (an event held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.): lesser known speeches that no doubt helped build Dr. King’s stature.
Also be sure to read the Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March, ahead of President Obama’s visit to Selma, AL next week to mark the 50th Anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march.
Words most certainly have power.