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To celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let's reflect on some of his key lessons and consider how we can apply them to our lives today.
On Monday, Progress’ U.S. offices will be closed as Americans nationwide will celebrate the 27th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when we commemorate and celebrate the honorable life and contributions of Dr. King.
In addition to honoring his birthday, MLK Day is a day of service, inspiration, and personal reflection; a day that helps us remember the overwhelming impact the scholar, minister, and civil rights leader had on race relations in America and his hopes to inspire us to serve our communities in the same way.
While it has been more than 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement took place, the U.S. still continues its pursuit of equality for all. As we celebrate the life and legacy of MLK, take note of these four valuable lessons each of us can learn from his leadership.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
King’s dream of racial equality wasn’t just met with skepticism, but also with beatings, snarling K-9’s, hoses, jailtime, and people filled with pure rage. In the face of this violence, he continued to fight for what he knew was right.
While our goals and dreams will never be met with such intense violence, too often we allow ourselves to delay, derail or even bury impactful initiatives because we simply don’t know all of the answers, or see an instant and clear path to the finish line. Or even worse, we don’t want to face skepticism.
Many of the most profound accomplishments in history were based on someone having the conviction to succeed and marching towards their goal, ready to take on whatever roadblocks that might enter their path. King’s leadership has taught us that without first acting, our goals and dreams will never come to fruition. We must wield the faith and confidence to take calculated risks even when the path seems unclear, and to not be derailed by negativity, skepticism, or rejection.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
King inspired generations of oppressed people to dream regardless of their skin color, gender, sexuality, class, or origin of birth. And yes, it is still harder for some people to turn their dreams into reality than others, but each uphill climb must first begin with a few short steps.
Imagine if King had not led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955; the Civil Rights Movement may not have gained the momentum needed to result in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Through his actions, King taught us that even when we are crawling, we are still pushing forward towards our goals. While the stakes of our business and personal goals will never be as high as those for the Civil Rights Movement, it is still imperative to take that first step to move your goals and dreams closer to fruition.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
King was born into a deeply racist culture, a culture so entrenched that we are still working to detangle racism in America to this day. King dedicated his life to raising public consciousness of racism and fighting racial injustices in the U.S.
Typically, when we think of injustice, we automatically replay all of the images relating to societal ills like racism, crime, and police brutality that we see on the news each day. Rarely do we envision the injustice that is experienced in workplaces across the world each day such as bullying, microaggressions, and unconscious bias.
Each of these workplace injustices has a negative impact on co-workers, including elevated stress levels, depression, and decreased productivity. Injustices in the workplace also have an impact on those who witness these actions, such as lowering overall morale.
We each possess the ability to address injustices each day by being good corporate and community citizens. Our battles with injustices don’t involve us risking our lives like King, but will require us to learn more about cultures outside that which we immediately identify and have the courage to simply speak up when we witness acts of injustice against others.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
King’s legacy has had a remarkable impact on civil rights in the U.S. As occurrences in recent years have demonstrated, racial bias, violence, injustice, and voter suppression are all still very much prevalent in today’s society.
We all can learn a great deal from this Nobel Peace Prize winner, whose life mission was to dare people to dream, serve others and eliminate social injustices. When we serve, we often realize that the most important things that we have to offer are not tangible things at all, but instead our time, presence, and attention.
Here at Progress, we offer opportunities to ideate, achieve goals that align with our passion, and challenge unconscious biases—all while serving others. Progress for Tomorrow offers several options for Progress employees to serve others. As the co-lead and co-founder for the Blacks@Progress employee resource group (ERG) here at Progress, I’ve leveraged the above lessons learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and have chosen to serve others by actively participating in my community along with several of the ERGs which as of today includes Blacks@Progress, Progress for Her, ASPIRE, Veterans@Progress, UNIDOS, and PLUS.
On Monday, Progress U.S. offices will be closed in observation of the MLK Day holiday. I challenge you to think about whether Dr. King’s legacy has been a source of inspiration in your life, and if so—in what ways are you personally fostering his dream?
Rochelle Wheeler is a Sr. Project Manager with Progress’s Professional Services Team and focuses on the OpenEdge, Sitefinity, and Corticon suite of solutions. With over two decades of successful marketing and project management experience, she has launched campaigns for companies ranging from boutique agencies to Fortune 500 enterprises. You can follow her on LinkedIn.
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