In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.” These are the words and thoughts that Dr. King articulated so well, when he spoke to a group of students at Barrett Junior High School in Philadelphia only six months before his death, on October 26, 1967. As we celebrate MLK Day and reflect on our nation's history of intolerance, prejudice and discrimination I would like to take an opportunity to deliver a more positive message. A message that pertains to our youth, a message that we can all deliver as we engage not only with our own children, but also those with whom we work and serve. It was Dr. King's blueprint for Life!
In his speech, Dr. King laid out three fundamentals to help students reach their full potential. These elements of a successful life are as true today as they were then. I would argue that they also apply equally to adults as they do to children. First, believe in yourself, believe in your own dignity, your life has significance and purpose. Your feelings, thoughts and beliefs are all components of who you are, and they count. Do not let anyone make you feel less because they are not in line with what others believe.
Second, be determined to be the best that you can be. Strive to achieve excellence in all that you do. It doesn't matter what you do, what matters is that you take pride in what you do, and that you do it well. At all levels in life, you will engage with others who depend on you, on the work you do and how well you do it. Can you reflect on your work and be proud of it? If so, you did it well, if not strive to do better next time. You will undoubtedly have failures, we all do, do not give up! Learn from your experiences, good or bad, they are building blocks, and each one is a part of constructing the best you that you can be.
Finally, his message imparts a commitment to eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice. It is our commitment to these principles, which enable a flourishing society. Give back, and improve our community, our country, and our world. Do what your able to do and contribute in the ways that allow you to “Give Back”. Improving the lives of others is the best and most rewarding thing you can do. It will help you toward your road of self-actualization and reaching your full potential.
Dr. King outlined these three principles to a group of Black youth in 1967. Fifty years later, life for Black youth has not changed significantly. In some instance's statistics have actually worsened. According to the Brookings Institute, Racial and Ethnic disparities continue to impact Black youth; “half of Black Americans, born poor stay poor, most Black middle-class kids are downwardly mobile, Black wealth barely exists, most Black families headed by a single parent, and Black students attend worse schools”. As we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, I want to encourage all of you not to not only remember his legacy but also help Black, and other youth of color, to “Keep Moving”.