On October 26, 1967, six months before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King gave one of the most sage speeches of his career.
He was not speaking to a group of politicians, nor captains of industry. He was not rallying civic leaders. Instead, he delivered his simple yet profound message to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia.
“What is your life’s blueprint?” King asked.
With this single question, he delivered a lifetime of wisdom in a scant twenty minutes. The importance of self-worth, the determination to excel, and recognition of the opportunities open to them, where doors had been closed to their parents. In that brief time – as he had done with so many people before – King empowered those children. Not by telling them that they would all have lofty careers, or that they would be famous or “important”. Instead, he empowered them by encouraging that, no matter how mundane their position, they “set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.”
He gave them permission to be themselves, but also encouragement to be their best selves.
In today’s endless pursuit of viral greatness, everyone seems to be chasing a better job, or a better house, or a better life. But what about, as King suggests, focusing on a better self?
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.”
What is your life’s blueprint?
The question may be even more profound today than it was forty years ago. But the answer remains the same: “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
#STOUT leader. #STOUT legacy.