“We must use time creatively,” MLK, Jr.

Last week I was in DC delivering a keynote to a group of educators—superintendents, principals and vice principals. The event theme, Turning Problems Into Solutions, is the subtitle of my book, Pink Bat. My challenge was to inspire the audience to embrace creative thinking, look at “problems” in a new light, and to provide tools they could use to motivate the many teachers they influence. The client had great expectations… and I had only 45 minutes to make it happen. I’m happy to report the audience was wonderful, and based on the feedback, the event was a success. It seems I made my 45 minutes count…

Since Anne was able to join me, we decided to stay an extra day and explore our nation’s capital. We walked a good ten miles, taking in the many sites DC has to offer. At some point we found ourselves climbing the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And then, unintentionally, we both stopped short of reaching the massive marble statue and bowed our heads… eighteen steps short to be exact. With heads bowed, we read the inscription engraved in the step, “I HAVE A DREAM. Martin Luther King, Jr., The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963.” My mind raced and I became overwhelmed with emotions. Without thinking about it, we found ourselves standing on the very step from which Dr. King delivered his historic speech.

After a moment… I honestly don’t know how long we stood there… we eventually made our way up the remaining steps and listened to the National Park Ranger’s presentation. While his presentation was informative and the monument was inspiring, I couldn’t stop thinking about Dr. King. I returned to the step and stood directly on it. Looking out over the National Mall, I closed my eyes and traveled back to 1963. I was five years old when Dr. King shared his dream, but I remember it vividly… watching it on a black and white TV screen, hearing it repeated on the radio, listening to adults and kids discuss it as I tried to reconcile his words, their words, and my thoughts about the turbulent times. Dr. King was then… and remains… one of my heroes.

I opened my eyes briefly to take in the entire scene before closing them again and trying to remember the words spoken here some 48 years ago. He conveyed so much in such a profoundly eloquent and compelling way. But it was the end of his speech—the part where Dr. King departed from his prepared notes and improvised—when his vision became known to the world. Apparently, Mahalia Jackson, an African-American gospel singer, prompted him by shouting, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And tell us he did.

When we returned to our hotel that evening, I looked up the “I Have a Dream” transcript and read the words several times. Then something profound struck me. In this iconic speech, this brilliant man masterfully referenced numerous biblical allusions, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” an old Negro spiritual, and so much more… all in seventeen minutes! What more can be said?

Comments

3 Responses to ““We must use time creatively,” MLK, Jr.”

  1. Helen Heubi on April 15th, 2011 5:18 am

    What a wonderful memory, that whole day in Washington. I was there! The march began earlier than announced, spontaneously. Marchers filled all the space on the roadways leading to the Lincoln Memorial, and still kept marching. Those at the front had to turn back into the crowd, not to be crushed agains the ironwork. Eddies flowed. A National Guardsman passed by on the swirl of movement like a leaf on a river. People flowed and sorted themselves out. A peaceful feeling prevailed. People helped anyone nearby who needed help. An African American youth climbed a tree with my camera to get a historic shot for me. The Kennedy administration turned the streets over to the demonstrators. Later marches, I hear, were not as peaceful.

  2. Michael on January 18th, 2013 3:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing your memories, Helen.

  3. Enrique on December 11th, 2015 3:23 am

    This is really interesting. You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

Got something to say?