January 2013 has been a landmark month in celebrating the wonder and fulfillment of dreams. With the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday occurring on the same day as the Presidential Inauguration of Barak H. Obama, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law, history continues to teach. In addition there are other significant events this year that relate to the quest for the American dream, present in the chronicles of Lincoln and Kennedy, with their contributions for legislative inroads toward equality and justice. King sacrificially instigated for action on those principals, transforming his cause into a movement. These three leaders tackled what seemed like nightmares and instead made courageous visions a reality. None of these feats happened without hard fought leadership from presidents to everyday citizens.
How do we personalize the work of these leaders as we move forward? Do we each ‘have a dream?’
I had the privilege to speak at the MLK holiday program in my community on that historic day of January 21. My message consisted of four haves for a dream – four being a directional number that can help us harness their messages to focus for the way ahead.
1. Have a Dream Purpose. In his breakthrough speech of August 1963, Dr. King said “I have a dream that one day…” then he proceeded through a list of his personal and societal wishes. So why don’t we each start to fill in the blanks of our own “that one day…” for ourselves, our families, our communities, our teams. Then turn those dreams into a vision, making them Personal, Radical and Significant, by having a plan to make them reality.
I served in the army for a while, and during my training, marching was mandatory as a learned skill with its protocols and timing. It was done in groups as we navigated around the base by foot. To get from one location to the next, the leader, often a drill sergeant would issue a command, Forward March! And then we’d move out smartly and swiftly in line with purpose to the next destination. What was being formed in this disciplined culture? For soldiers to know where we are and want to go, then move with a purpose.
How do we find meaning in where we’re supposed to go? Oftentimes we respond to the elements of our DNA, what I call Delivered Natural Ability, to be shared with the world. As Dr. King also stated, everybody can serve in some capacity and whatever that is, we should strive to be the best at it. Intertwine our purpose with the power to lead forward.
2. Have a Dream Posse. We don’t journey alone in this world. Nor can we totally survive and progress in our own enclaves. It’s important that we bring others into our movement. Support in and outside of ourselves and communities is needed for solutions. On August 28, 1963 Dr. King was surrounded on that stage at the Lincoln memorial by people with beginnings in the north, east, south and west— from religious, labor, art, women’s and other organizations, all dedicated to the causes of equality and justice.
We learn about each other through these interactions, our commonalities as well as our differences. And we can question each other to explore and know more about our mutual goals. Indira Gandhi once said, “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” In our posse, we need to understand the know-how and the stories of each other’s journey to unite in moving forward.
3. Have Dream Progress Points. How do we know that we’re really moving forward? Is there visible evidence of our vision’s progress? Can we see breakthrough points, even in the midst of blight? Lincoln and two Kennedys were assassinated, yet the strength of the causes in their legacies sustains. The history of the civil rights movement includes ugliness from experiences with jail sentences to dogs, fire hoses, vilification and even conflict among themselves. But Dr. King and his posse kept going in the direction of respect for humanity.
History is full of others who’ve shouldered their struggles or mistakes and turned them into beaming successes. For all of us, in these challenging times, things change quickly; dreams can turn to nightmares in our finances, health, relationships, or careers. But we can seek another opportunity and imagine anew. So let’s progress the dream in our community, home and ourselves, remembering some history as a check point.
4. Have a wakeup call from your dream, find the message and get moving. Thinking back to our youth we did just that. When we woke up from a night of having a dream – there was an urge to tell it, to a parent, grandparent, sibling or buddy. We reported them as big, recalling details with vivid accuracy, as we shared our dreams while creating a wishful awe.
So it’s time to do that now. We can dream bold and bountiful, then move by taking our goals on the road to help others in our communities. As we know from Dr. King, one person’s vision can affect change for the masses.
Robert F. Kennedy once said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Can we lead the way to our good dream report by having a purpose, a posse, progress point, and a wakeup call?