MLK III at Ebenezer

            THANK YOU, MR. KELVIN BOSTON, FOR YOUR VERY GENEROUS INTRODUCTION. AND THANK ALL OF YOU FOR YOUR WARM WELCOME.

            REPRESENTATIVE LEE, MAYOR DELLUMS, OTHER DISTINGUISHED PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS AND GUESTS, IT IS A GREAT PLEASURE AND AN HONOR TO JOIN YOU TODAY.  I WANT TO THANK MY GOOD FRIEND JOHN HOPE BRYANT AND OPERATION HOPE FOR GRACIOUSLY INVITING ME TO ADDRESS THIS PORTION OF THE FINANCIAL LITERACY EMPOWERMENT FORUM.

             LET ME BEGIN BY SAYING THAT OPERATION HOPE IS TRULY A GODSEND.  BEFORE JOHN HOPE BRYANT ACCEPTED THE CHALLENGE OF CREATING A RENAISSANCE OF FINANCIAL LITERACY AMONG AMERICA’S YOUNG PEOPLE, AND PARTICULARLY AMONG LOW-INCOME YOUTH, VERY LITTLE WAS BEING DONE TO PREPARE THEM WITH THE KIND OF ECONOMIC KNOWLEDGE THAT CAN BRING REAL AND LASTING SECURITY TO THEIR LIVES.

            BUT ALL OF THAT HAS BEGUN TO CHANGE, BECAUSE TODAY, IN THE GHETTOS AND BARRIOS OF AMERICA AND IN THE POCKETS OF RURAL POVERTY FROM COAST TO COAST AND AROUND THE WORLD, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE BEGINNING TO TALK ABOUT THEIR FINANCIAL SECURITY WITH A SENSE OF SERIOUSNESS AND PURPOSE, AND THIS IS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE FINANCIAL EDUCATIONAL REVOLUTION IMPLEMENTED BY OPERATION HOPE.           

I RECENTLY RETURNED FROM INDIA, AND I MUST SAY THAT I WAS EXTREMELY IMPRESSED WITH THE YOUNGER GENERATION IN THAT VAST AND DIVERSE NATION.  DURING THE TRIP, I VISITED ONE OF INDIA’S PREMIER SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN MUMBAI AND ALSO THE STUDENTS OF JAI HIND COLLEGE WHERE I HAD A SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT.  EVERYONE HERE SHOULD KNOW THAT THE ARTICLES AND NEWS REPORTS ABOUT INDIA’S EXPLODING ECONOMIC POWER ARE QUITE TRUE.  PARENTS AND TEACHERS OF OUR GENERATION ARE EDUCATING THEIR YOUNG PEOPLE WITH A FIERCE INTENSITY THAT WE HAVE NOT YET SEEN IN AMERICA.   THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF INDIA ARE BEING SYSTEMATICALLY PREPARED TO LEAD THE WORLD, PARTICULARLY IN THE FIELDS OF BUSINESS AND WE NEED TO GET BUSIER DOING THE SAME.

            NOW I BELIEVE THESE EFFORTS ARE A GOOD THING, BECAUSE EVERY WELL-EDUCATED YOUNG PERSON, NO MATTER WHERE THEY LIVE OR WHAT LANGUAGE THEY SPEAK, CAN BE A FORCE FOR PEACE AND PROSPERITY, ESPECIALLY IF THEY EMPLOY THE METHODS OF “LOVE LEADERSHIP” THAT JOHN OUTLINES IN HIS BOOK BY THAT NAME.  WITH A FEW GREAT EXCEPTIONS LIKE JEFFREY CANADA AND OTHERS, OUR LEADERSHIP FOR A QUALITY EDUCATION FOR AMERICA’S DISADVANTAGED YOUTH HAS BEEN SORELY LACKING.   NEVERTHELESS, I AM OPTIMISTIC IN BELIEVING THAT THIS MEANINGFUL CONFERENCE SIGNALS A REVERSAL OF THAT TREND.   

            SO MUCH OF OUR POLITICAL DISCUSSION IN AMERICA IS ABOUT WHAT GOVERNMENT SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT DO, ESPECIALLY IN AN OVERHEATED POLITICAL YEAR, LIKE THIS ONE. BUT, GOVERNMENTS -- FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL – ONLY PROVIDE ABOUT 15 PERCENT OF THE JOBS IN AMERICA. THE PRIVATE SECTOR PROVIDES THE REST SO CLEARLY, THE PRIVATE SECTOR HAS THE MORE CRUCIAL ROLE IN REDUCING UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY AND OTHER FORMS OF SUFFERING CAUSED BY ECONOMIC INJUSTICE.

            IN MY FATHER’S “I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH,” HE CHALLENGED ALL OF US TO LIVE TOGETHER AS SISTERS AND BROTHERS IN THE HUMAN FAMILY.  AND ON MANY OCCASIONS, HE USED THE TERM “THE BELOVED COMMUNITY” TO DESCRIBE THE KIND OF SOCIETY IN WHICH EVERY PERSON WAS VALUED AND WHERE ALL CONFLICTS COULD BE RECONCILED IN A SPIRIT OF GOODWILL AND MUTUAL BENEFIT.   MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. BELIEVED THIS WAS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE, BUT WAS IMPERATIVE, IF AMERICA WAS TO BECOME A NATION THAT LIVED UP TO ITS NOBLEST IDEALS ABOUT FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY.

AND THE CHALLENGES AREN’T JUST ABOUT RACE; IT’S ABOUT BRIDGING THE DIVISIONS BETWEEN THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS WITH REAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHANGE. THE BELOVED COMMUNITY IS ABOUT CREATING MORE OF THAT PRECIOUS COMMODITY WE CALL HOPE, REAL HOPE FOR THE DISADVANTAGED AND MARGINALIZED.  IT’S ABOUT CREATING A SOCIETY THAT ELIMINATES ALL BARRIERS, PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. 

            ORGANIZATIONS LIKE OPERATION HOPE INSPIRE THE FAITH THAT WE CAN CREATE A MORE UNIFIED NATION, EVEN AS WE CELEBRATE OUR VIBRANT DIVERSITY.  I CLEARLY UNDERSTAND THAT THE PRIVATE SECTOR IS DRIVEN BY THE PROFIT MOTIVE.  BUT I WOULD NONETHELESS APPEAL TO AMERICA’S BUSINESS LEADERS TO EMBRACE A MORE OPEN-HEARTED SPIRIT OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO HELP ALLEVIATE ECONOMIC HARDSHIP AND SUFFERING IN AMERICA.              I KNOW THAT MANY CORPORATE LEADERS AND BUSINESS WOMEN AND MEN (SOME OF YOU ARE HERE TODAY) HAVE MET THE CHALLENGE OF USING THE ECONOMIC LEVERAGE OF YOUR COMPANIES TO HELP DEPRESSED COMMUNITIES, AND I APPLAUD YOUR VISION, YOUR COMMITMENT AND YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS.            THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO HELP, LIMITED ONLY BY THE POWER OF OUR IMAGINATIONS.  EVEN IF YOU HAVE A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME, YOU CAN STILL VOLUNTEER TO MENTOR AN AT-RISK YOUNGSTER, OR TEACH BUSINESS SKILLS IN A HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OR EVEN A JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER.  I DON'T THINK THERE HAS EVER BEEN A GREATER NEED FOR MENTORING PROGRAMS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ALL ACROSS AMERICA THAN THERE IS RIGHT NOW.   WORKING CLASS AND POOR YOUNG PEOPLE ARE CRYING OUT FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO PARTICIPATE IN SOCIETY AS RESPONSIBLE YOUNG ADULTS. YET, ON A DAILY BASIS, THEY ARE FACED WITH LIVING IN VIOLENT NEIGHBORHOODS WITH DRUG ADDICTED RELATIVES, APATHETIC, WORN OUT INSTRUCTORS AND DECLINING RECREATIONAL FUNDING.   ALL TOO OFTEN, THEIR APPEALS FOR HELP AND UNDERSTANDING ARE GREETED WITH INDIFFERENCE, CONDESCENDING LECTURES OR HOLLOW EXPRESSIONS OF SUPPORT WITH LITTLE OR NO COMMITMENT TO IMPLEMENTING NON-VIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE.   I RECENTLY READ A QUOTE WHERE THE MUSICAL GENIUS AND ENTREPRENEUR - MR. QUINCY JONES SAID “IMAGINE WHAT A HARMONIOUS WORLD IT COULD BE IF EVERY SINGLE PERSON, BOTH YOUNG AND OLD, SHARED IN A LITTLE OF WHAT HE IS GOOD AT DOING.”

            I BELIEVE THAT WE ALL CAN FIND MEANING AND PURPOSE IN SERVING THOSE WHO NEED THE MOST HELP.  

THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT IN COMMUNITY UPLIFT ARE TRULY LIMITLESS.  IN ADDITION TO MENTORING, YOU CAN START A FINANCIAL LITERACY SCHOLARSHIP FUND WITHIN THE AUSPICES OF A WELL MANAGED ORGANIZATION LIKE OPERATION HOPE.   THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT WE CAN'T AFFORD THE FOOLISH LUXURY OF NOT INVESTING IN THE EDUCATION OF OUR DISADVANTAGED YOUTH, BECAUSE WE WILL EITHER PROPERLY TRAIN THEM TODAY OR WIND UP PAYING FOR THEIR UPKEEP LATER.  

            OUR TEACHERS ARE CHALLENGED TODAY, NOT ONLY TO INSTRUCT YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE STANDARD EDUCATIONAL DISCIPLINES BUT THEY ARE ALSO CONCERNED WITH FINDING THE BEST WAYS TO ENCOURAGE POSITIVE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND MOTIVATION.   IT’S BEEN SAID THAT WITHOUT STRUGGLE, THE TENACIOUS ABILITY TO FACE ADVERSITY CANNOT BE DEVELOPED, AND I AGREE.   MY MOTHER, CORETTA SCOTT KING,  WAS ONE OF THE STRONGEST WOMEN I HAVE EVER KNOWN.  WHILE STILL IN COLLEGE, SHE SELFLESSLY DEDICATED HER LIFE TO THE WORK OF ERADICATING POVERTY, RACISM, AND WAR BEFORE SHE EVER MET AND MARRIED DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.    EVEN AFTER HIS ASSASSINATION,  MY MOTHER COULD HAVE STAYED HOME AND FOCUSED ON HERSELF, BUT SHE CHOSE INSTEAD TO RESPOND TO THE CALL OF SERVANTHOOD TO HUMANITY THAT GOD PLACED ON HER LIFE, AND SHE STILL MANAGED BY HIS GRACE TO BE AN EXCELLENT, HANDS ON MOTHER.

IN OUR INCREASINGLY MATERIALISTIC WORLD, WE MUST DO A BETTER JOB OF EDUCATING OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISING HUMANITARIAN VALUES IF WE AND FUTURE GENERATIONS ARE GOING TO LIVE LIFE VICTORIOUSLY WITH ANY MEASURE OF PEACE.  OUR CHILDREN MUST BE TAUGHT EARLY ON THAT OUR DIVINE PURPOSES FOR LIVING ARE INCOMPLETE IF WE TURN A BLIND EYE TO THE POVERTY AND DEPRIVATION OF OUR FELLOW CITIZENS.   

            TODAY WE HAVE TALLER BUILDINGS, AND SHORTER TEMPERS;  WE HAVE WIDER FREEWAYS, BUT NARROWER MINDS; WE HAVE MORE DEGREES, BUT LESS COMMON SENSE; WE HAVE MULTIPLIED OUR POSSESSIONS, BUT REDUCED OUR VALUES; WE’VE LEARNED HOW TO MAKE A LIVING, BUT NOT A LIFE OF SELFLESS GIVING; WE’VE SPLIT THE ATOM, BUT NOT OUR PREJUDICES; WE HAVE HIGHER INCOMES, BUT LOWER MORALS; WE HAVE FANCIER HOUSES, BUT BROKEN HOMES; WE DRINK TOO MUCH, SMOKE TOO MUCH, DRIVE TO FAST, LAUGH TOO LITTLE, READ TOO SELDOM, AND WE WATCH TOO MUCH TV.     WE HAVE COME SO FAR, BUT WE ARE A NATION IN TROUBLE, AND WE MUST ANSWER THE QUESTION POSED BY DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. SOME 40 YEARS AGO:  “WHERE TO WE GO FROM HERE?”

            I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE LEADERS OF AMERICA’S FUTURE WILL BE THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF TODAY WHO HAVE LEARNED HOW TO BUILD BRIDGES OF HOPE AND UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN DIFFERENT RACES AND CULTURES.  AND FINANCIAL LITERACY REMAINS A FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENT FOR ‘THE REBIRTH OF AMERICA, IN A POST ECONOMIC CRISIS.’       HISTORY WILL NOT JUDGE US KINDLY IF WE FAIL TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF EXPANDING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND PROVIDING FINANCIAL TRAINING SKILLS IN PARTICULAR.

            EDUCATION IS EXPENSIVE, AND THAT IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE TRUE. BUT, LIKE THE BUMPER STICKER SAYS, “IF YOU THINK EDUCATION IS EXPENSIVE, TRY IGNORANCE.”    UNFORTUNATELY, WE SHORTCHANGED EDUCATION IN SOME NEIGHBORHOODS, AND THE RESULTS HAVE BEEN PREDICTABLE AND DISASTROUS.   THE COSTS OF UNDERFUNDING EDUCATION ARE REFLECTED IN LOST WAGES AND TAX REVENUES, SKYROCKETING UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION, GENERATIONAL GOVERNMENT DEPENDENCY, LOW SELF ESTEEM THAT FOSTERS SOCIAL DECAY AND I WON’T EVEN START ON THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.

            BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS THIS: BY ALMOST ANY MEASURE, EDUCATION IS THE MOST COST-EFFECTIVE INVESTMENT TAXPAYERS CAN MAKE. THERE REALLY IS NO OTHER INVESTMENT WE CAN MAKE THAT MORE EFFECTIVELY  PROMOTES PROSPERITY, FIGHTS CRIME, STRENGTHENS OUR COMPETITIVE POSITION IN THE WORLD MARKETPLACE, ENRICHES OUR CULTURE AND HELPS PREPARE OUR YOUNG PEOPLE FOR INTERRACIAL UNDERSTANDING AND COOPERATION.

            IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS LEADING UP TO THE MID TERM ELECTION, WE’RE GOING TO HEAR A LOT MORE ABOUT WHAT IS NEEDED TO CREATE MORE JOBS.  NO MATTER WHAT IS SAID HOWEVER, LET US BE CLEAR THAT THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR A GREATER INVESTMENT IN THE EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN.

            IN JANUARY A NEW CONGRESS WILL CONVENE, AND IT'S UP TO ALL OF US TO TAKE A STAND REGARDLESS OF OUR POLITICAL PREFERENCES. AMERICANS OF ALL POLITICAL VIEWPOINTS MUST COME TOGETHER TO MAKE QUALITY EDUCATION FOR AMERICA’S YOUNG PEOPLE A LEADING PRIORITY.

             AS CIVIC AND CORPORATE LEADERS, WE MUST ASK OURSELVES WHETHER OR NOT OUR LINE OF VISION EXTENDS BEYOND THE SHORT-TERM PROFITS THAT MAKE US AND OUR STOCKHOLDERS PERSONALLY WEALTHY.   SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE BUZZWORDS FOR OUR PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAMS, BUT RATHER A REAL POLICY THAT WILL BE REFLECTED IN EVERY LEVEL OF DECISION-MAKING.  

            AND SO, I CHALLENGE ALL OF US EMBRACE AN ENERGETIC RECOMMITMENT TO SERVE “THE LEAST OF THESE” OF ALL RACES AND CULTURES. LET US ACT WITH RADIANT ASSURANCE THAT THE DREAM LIVES ON WHEN WE STRUGGLE NONVIOLENTLY FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY. THE DREAM LIVES ON WHENEVER WE REACH OUT TO FEED THE HUNGRY LIKE HOSEA WILLIAMS, TO HOUSE THE HOMELESS LIKE HABITAT FOR HUMANITY, AND TO EDUCATE THE YOUNG OPEN MINDS LIKE THE UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND.

AS WE FOCUS OUR HEARTS UPWARD TO HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD, LET US DREAM AND WORK TOWARD A BELOVED COMMUNITY WHERE NO CHILD OF ANY RACE OR NATION GOES TO BED HUNGRY AT NIGHT, A WORLD WHERE EVERY FAMILY HAS DECENT SHELTER, HEALTHCARE, AND EMPLOYMENT FOR THE BREADWINNERS.  A WORLD WHERE THERE IS FREEDOM FROM DISEASE AND THE WEAPONS OF ANNIHILATION ARE REPLACED WITH THE “STRENGTH TO LOVE” AS DESCRIBED IN MY FATHER’S BOOK OF THE SAME NAME.

THE KING CENTER IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA WHERE I SERVE AS PRESIDENT AND CEO; STRONGLY SUPPORTS THE GREAT WORK OF OPERATION HOPE.  WE ALSO FEEL THAT OUR COMMITMENT AT THE KING CENTER TO TRAINING YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE PRINCIPLES AND TECHNIQUES OF NONVIOLENT CONFLICT RESOLUTION COMPLIMENTS THE EFFICIENT FINANCIAL LITERACY TRAINING EFFORTS OF OPERATION HOPE.  ALL OF THESE VITALLY IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP TRAINING SKILLS WILL BE IN OPERATION NEXT SUMMER RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM ONE ANOTHER BESIDE THE HISTORIC EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH.

AS WE MAKE SURE THAT THE TRAINING THAT WE PROVIDE IS NOURISHED IN THE FERTILE SOIL OF JUSTICE, COMPASSION AND LOVE, WE WILL CONTINUE TO ADVANCE THE GLORIOUS VISION OF THE BELOVED COMMUNITY THAT MY FATHER ESPOUSED.  

WITH A SPIRIT OF AGAPE LOVE, FAITH, AND COMMITMENT TO HELP ONE ANOTHER, TOGETHER, WE ALL SHALL OVERCOME.  THANK YOU FOR THIS TIME, AND MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS AND KEEP YOU IN HIS CARE.

 

COPYRIGHT©

MARTIN LUTHER KING, III

October 19, 2010

 

 

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