By Ira Hughes
There are many people throughout the world who contribute to making the communities where they live better. Some are even able to effect change in a larger scale. But, in the grand scheme of things, not many individuals are able to leave a lasting mark on society that impacts generations and penetrates the broader social consciousness. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a towering figure whose teachings and leadership still are influencing action and inspiring us 50 years after his assassination (April 4, 1968).
I am a young African-American professional in the field of communications at MP&F Public Relations, and Dr. King, one of the most gifted communicators during the 20th century, and certainly of his generation, has inspired me in more ways than I can articulate.
Dr. King connected with all kinds of people, no matter their race, gender or age. Each community that he spoke to was different because of certain local and regional factors, and not everyone he spoke to was welcoming; but his broader message resonated in the face of all barriers. In part, it was his selflessness during a time of such upheaval in this country that added power to his prophetic words because he was living what he preached, and by doing so, he helped provide others in the movement with the strength to persevere.
He was a courageous man who knew he would receive the brunt of criticism by those championing the status quo and even other leaders of the civil rights movement for his strategy and the tactics he used. That courage, which I am using as an example in the context of communications, helped him immensely in being an effective leader that people listened to and followed.
Through Dr. King’s positive societal and public policy influence, I get the chance to have my voice be heard and to influence action in my community. Without Dr. King, I do not get the opportunity to interact in a diverse work environment. He has paved the way for some of the world’s greatest leaders. He did not ask us to thank him for his gracious and courageous acts. But, saying thank you is simply not enough to honor Dr. King; we must continue to take advantage of the opportunities he has bestowed on us.
So, on this 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, we are not celebrating the death of MLK; but are we celebrating the life of MLK and continuing to appreciate and act out the countless influential messages he gifted to us.
Beyond being an active member of my community, as a professional communicator and leader, I have learned from Dr. King that I need to listen, be authentic, be bold yet humble, stay true to who I am while also being willing to adjust when needed, and always look for methods to deliver my message in the most strategic way possible.