The first time I was directly touched by him was as a youth at a party at a friend’s house. My buddy’s sister-in-law was there and her presence, maturity and beauty easily drew the attention of this teen-aged boy. What quickly outshone all of those attributes however, was the energy and excitement and passion with which she was delivering a story. She was gushing about how amazing it was for her to have been a part of the March on Washington in 1963. She glowed with pride and enthusiasm as she spoke of being a part of that enormous crowd at an event which would help shape the future of America – to have been present to hear one of the greatest oratories in American history. That was the “I Have a Dream” speech given by this Friday’s Fearless Brand – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A fearless brand is driven by passion and conviction which is contagious and begins to build a legacy.
The entire experience had a profound impact on my friends’ sister-in-law. In turn, that impact touched me in a way I had yet to experience. Dr. King’s message had resonated with this white lady who had lived a reasonably privileged life – a life free from persecution, discrimination and unfair practices. Seeing the impact on her sparked me to view the entire Civil Rights movement with a new perspective.
Born Michael King, his named was changed by his father to Martin Luther to honor the 16th Century Christian reformer. As a Baptist minister King became involved in Civil Rights actions in his mid-twenties. Notably he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped create the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in the mid 1950’s.
King sought to fight and eliminate persecution and discrimination through civil disobedience and non-violent activism. Guided by his Christian beliefs he was also greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s success with this approach in India. He traveled there in 1959 to study, learn and embrace those principles.
Through the years MLK was involved in countless efforts to further the cause of equal rights. He was seen as a leader, difference maker, positive force in the world and leader of peace by countless people of all races. At the same time he was considered a radical, a communist and a pariah by an equal number of people – including the FBI. Throughout his life there were allegations of conspiracy, adultery and much more. Regardless of what drove these assertions Dr. King was able to persevere -remaining true and committed to his convictions.
His impact on the United States cannot be disputed. His life was filled with incredibly significant events. The March on Washington, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, The March on Fear. He stood behind President Lyndon Johnson at the signing of the 1964 civil Rights Act. In October of that same year he was named the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize of Peace. On April 4th, 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
The following quote from President Jimmy Carter on the occasion of MLK being posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom is profound.
“Martin Luther King, Jr., was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet.”
A fearless brand need not touch a nation much less the entire world. A fearless brand will, however, have a powerful and contagious impact on their world, no matter how far reaching. Find your conviction and passion…make your mark in your world. Become your fearless brand.