God Save the "King"
Jan. 15, 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,
genders, persons of different sexual orientations and persons
of different language and national origins.
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 passionate advocate.
Conventional 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.
greatest 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 city, county or 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 happen. Dr. King was able to speak with amazing
eloquence at what he saw in his own mind when he went to a
metaphorical mountaintop and look at the "promised
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
only hope for visions 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
HR Doctor recently received a gift of the book by Neenah Ellis
entitled, If I Live to be 100, which explores what
common characteristics long-lived individuals 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 enduring 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
a 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.
a teacher as well as being one. Commit to learn new skills.
Learn to speak Spanish. Learn to take up hiking,
photography, or one of the HR Doctors favorites, music.
Review the recent HR Doctor article "Learn as though you
were going to live forever" to be reminded of the importance
of this concept.
Commit to 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 at work or a member of
the family. It is easier to succeed in a plan if you have
support from an understanding friend.
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 your own
reputation is enhanced and your own leadership skills are
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
time 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 individuality.
some time away from the television and away from the
computer to pursue some personal passion.
ahead 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
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 can individually 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
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.