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This week, we observe the national holiday, celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I reflect on Dr. King’s life, it’s easy to see his dreams are as relevant today as they were fifty years ago.
In a speech delivered in 1957, he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
In our work, and in our personal lives, we all have the ability to lead and serve others, publicly as Dr. King did, or quietly, without fanfare or headlines. I encourage each of you to look for opportunities that allow you to be a leader.
Dr. King’s opportunity came in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was asked to lead the bus boycott in 1955. That protest led to his very public mission to bring equality, justice and diversity to all.
Dr. King’s leadership and principles earned respect, praise, honors and ultimately the Nobel Peace Prize.
When President Ronald Reagan signed legislation creating this national holiday in 1983, he said, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and his spirit live within all of us. May we make ourselves worthy to carry on his dream. So, each year on Martin Luther King day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the commandments he believed in and sought to live every day.”
As we celebrate his life and achievements, we should remember the principles of service and leadership often identified with his legacy:
Be persistent, committed and self-confident.
Understand the goal.
Inspire and respect others.
Believe in your message.
Leadership is not defined by gender, age or ethnicity, political beliefs or career choices. Leadership is learned, and we all come to positions of leadership in different ways, at different times in our lives.
After the election in 2013, I received a note of congratulations from a voter who summed up leadership perfectly. “True leaders are the first to see the need, envision the plan and empower the team for action.
By the strength of the leader’s commitment, the power of the team is unleashed.”
The author of this quote is not known. We don’t know if it refers to one specific person, but it certainly could have been written about Dr. King. He saw the need for equal rights. He envisioned a plan to achieve that goal and he empowered a team to act.
We are all fortunate to live in a city where service to others is valued.
Giving back is what makes Omaha a special place to live, work and raise our families. Giving time, treasure and talent is an investment in our community and like a good investment, it multiplies. Giving changes lives and creates opportunities. Giving leads to progress, and success.
On the anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday, our nation celebrates progress and success.