Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Communication

MLK at the March on Washington

Nearly 50 years after he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s teachings continue to resonate with diverse audiences across the globe. Most Americans over the age of five are familiar enough with the Civil Rights Movement leader’s most famous speech, I Have a Dream, that they can close their eyes and hear Dr. King’s voice echo in their imaginations. Many of us can recite some or all of the speech’s most empowering phrases. Most importantly, though, we remember how Dr. King’s message of hope and change transformed racial relations in the U.S. forever, and deeply improved the lives of  African-Americans in particular.

What exactly was it about Dr. King that made his message so enduring?

Dr. King had an important, timely message that people were hungry for, and knew how to deliver it in a way that inspired people to take action. He was adept at painting a picture in the mind’s eye of how things could be. His speeches activated the imagination, stirred the senses, and evoked deep emotions. Talk about memorable.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.

Having once identified the issue of racial prejudice as a “communication problem”, Dr. King knew that clear, effective communication was a huge part of the solution.

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.

Your Turn

To honor Dr. King’s memory, I challenge you to spend some time today thinking about one of your dreams. It may not be as big as Dr. King’s. If it matters to you, though, I can assure you it is important enough to make a difference in someone else’s life, too.

What are you doing to communicate your vision to your audience, and build a legacy that will influence and inspire others to take action? I want to hear about it. If there’s anything I could do to help you move forward, let’s discuss that in the comments, too.

6 Responses to “Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Communication”

  1. Messages given at the hottest situation will resonate and go viral at the given moment. It takes some work to find them, but it’s possible. Thanks for the post.

    Keep up the good work!
    – Sam

  2. PS – What’s that saying about preparation meeting opportunity?

  3. Not quite sure which one you mean, but it might be: “I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey

  4. I was actually thinking of Seneca. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe Oprah was paraphrasing him when she said that, though. :)

  5. P.S. What’s one of your dreams, Sam? I want to hear about it!

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