On Jan. 15,
2003, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 73 years old. He
would have lived through decades of amazing technological changes
and continuing progress in Americas search to close gaps and narrow
inequalities between races, between genders, between persons of
different sexual orientations, and between persons of different
language and national origins.
He would have
seen tens of millions of immigrants continuing to come to America to
realize their own versions of the American dream. Its hard to even
imagine how much more progress would have been made in creating a
great and equitable society if he had been able to continue as a
wisdom recounts that his great contribution to the world was in the
advancement of civil rights through non-violence. The HR Doctor,
however, will focus in this article on another lesson from Dr. King
that all of us, as managers and administrators, not to mention as
parents, community members and friends, need to learn and practice
every day. That is the importance of creating a vision and enlisting
others to share in that vision to help make it a reality.
weakness in public service, in this writers opinion, is the
narrowness of our vision. We spend too much time counting paper
clips and not enough time looking at the long-range vision of what
our community could be like. We focus on the memo of the day and not
on the momentous changes which could happen in our world if we only
created the opening in thought and action to make these changes
Dr. King was
able to speak, with amazing eloquence, about what he saw in his own
mind when he went to a metaphorical mountaintop to look at the
That land could
be a county or a country in which all children had health care
coverage. It could be a place in which senior citizens are not
prevented from enjoying their final years in dignity because of the
cost of prescription drugs, or the lack of health insurance, or the
scourge of loneliness.
It could be a
society in which no one dropped out of school or in which the
unemployment rate was statistically insignificant.
The only hope
for visions like the ones above to become real is to create a vision
of the future that is so compelling and so articulately presented
that persons throughout the society agree to put aside lesser
divisions to focus on the higher loyalty, which can be developed
toward the common outcome.
We have done
this historically in times of war, and we have done this
historically in times of other national opportunities, such as the
mass polio vaccination program of the 1950s.
We do it every
day, in a sense, in commercial America when we create cultural icons
or heroes or products which sell in the millions. If only we could
do this in a micro way in terms of the way we live and practice
public administration day-to-day.
The HR Doctor
recently received a gift of the book by Neenah Ellis entitled If I
Live to be 100
What common characteristics do people with
extraordinary longevity share? Based on the interviews in the book,
the overriding common theme is not diet, occupation, genetics, or
fish oil. The common characteristic is optimism. This is also the
endearing legacy of Dr. King.
In his case,
the optimism was focused on closing racial and economic divides.
However, his legacy can also be profoundly positive for us as
individuals. It can mean a commitment to career development and
personal growth on the job, or it can mean looking at a vacant lot
filled with litter and imagining a new senior citizens health and
recreation facility. It can mean a personal commitment to stop
smoking, begin exercising or finish that college degree.
There is no end
to the number of positive visions, which can turn into reality if we
learn to move with commitment and optimism to make the changes
Here are a few
of the HR Doctors favorites:
commitment as a manager or executive in government to be a mentor to
subordinates at work and children in the community. Be a Big Brother
or Big Sister or a high school mentor. Be a teacher and a champion
of the career development and success of others.
teacher as well as being one. Commit to learn new skills. Learn to
speak Spanish. Learn to take up hiking or photography, or one of the
HR Doctors favorites, music.
personal health improvement by getting a check- up and following
through on actions to reduce health risks by regular exercise,
weight loss, smoking cessation, and other steps already mentioned.
Do these things and do them soon. While youre at it, take someone
with you such as a colleague or a member of the family. It is easier
to succeed in a plan if you have support from an understanding
Make a major
difference in the community. Be the catalyst to turn that vacant lot
into a senior health center. Be a United Way champion. Be a go to
person for charities so that your own reputation is enhanced and
your own leadership skills are developed. What better way to improve
these personal elements in your life than by also helping other
people on the way? There are no shortages of charities in the
neighborhood, in the county, or in the world that need your
with people you care about, including private time with yourself
away from the excessive intrusions of the modern world. The HR Dog
Kamala and I make time almost every morning for this purpose by
taking walks together. Its harder and harder to find privacy,
meditation call it what you will but the more our lives are
intruded upon by cell phones, horns honking, telemarketers, loud
neighbors, etc., the more we lose some part of the essence of our
time away from the television and away from the computer to pursue
some personal passion.
for what your own life may be like after retirement. Invest energy
in not only saving for financial security but taking steps to
increase your long-term intellectual security as well. Think about
things like where and when you might retire, and what active steps,
including other employment, you will take to keep alert, alive and
Do all these
things and you will have a significant set of New Years
resolutions. You will also be walking in the pathway of Dr. King.
Each of us individually can make the choice of whether to live our
lives surrounded by large piles of paper clips or surrounded by a
legacy that will make our children look back at us and say that we
stood for something wonderful.
The HR Doctor
wishes Dr. King a very happy birthday and hopes that you will spend
some time reliving the great I Have A Dream speech and remembering
the power of those words.
The HR Doctor http://www.hrdr.net/