God Save the King
On Jan. 15, Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., would have been 78 years old. He would have
lived through decades of amazing technological changes, and
continuing progress in
quest to close gaps and narrow inequalities between races,
genders, persons of different sexual orientations and persons
of different languages and national origins.
He would have seen tens of
millions of immigrants continuing to come to
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: the importance of creating a
vision and enlisting others to share in that vision to help
make it a reality.
The 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 that could happen
in our world if only we created the opening in thought and
action to make these changes happen.
Dr. King was able to speak
with amazing eloquence about what he saw in his own mind when
he went to a metaphorical mountaintop and looked 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, 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
The 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.
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. In a sense,
we do it every day. In commercial
when we create cultural icons or heroes or products which sell
in the millions.
The 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 that can turn into reality if we
learn to move with commitment and optimism to make the changes
Here are a few of the HR
Make 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
Find a teacher as well
as be one. Commit to learn new skills. Learn to speak
Spanish. Take up hiking, photography or one of the HR
Doctors favorites, music. Review the 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
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
Make a major difference
in the community. Be the catalyst to turn that vacant lot
into a senior health center. Be a
champion. Be a go-to person
for charities so 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 help.
Spend 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 and loud neighbors, the more we
lose some part of the essence of our individuality.
Spend some time away
from the television and away from the computer to pursue
some personal passion.
Plan ahead for what your
own life may be like after retirement. Invest energy in not
only saving for financial security but also by 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 contributing.
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
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 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.