God Save the King
On Jan. 15, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would
have been 80 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.
How proud he would be attending the
inauguration of Barack Obama in person, as well as in
Its hard to even imagine how much more
progress would have been made in creating a great and
equitable society if Dr. King had been able to continue as a
Conventional wisdom recounts that his great
contribution to the world was in the advancement of civil
rights through nonviolence. 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.
The greatest weakness in public service, in
this writers opinion, is the narrowness of our
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 about what
he saw in his own mind when he went to a metaphorical
mountaintop and looked at the promised land.
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
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
The HR Doctor recently received a gift of the
book by Neenah Ellis entitled If I Live to be
. 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 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
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 happen.
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 others.
Find a 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. Review the HR
Doctor article Learn as though you were going to live
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.
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
What better way to improve these personal
elements in your life than by also helping other people along
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, loud neighbors, etc., 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 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 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
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
The HR Doctor http://www.hrdr.net/