The world knows her as the daughtetr of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Some also would know her as the CEO of the King Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. Others as an ordained minister and a credentialed attorney at law. Still others would know her as the charismatic and passionate embodiment of the best that her father, Dr. King, had to offer our world.
I know Dr. King as an authentic force for good, truly and genuinely working everyday to bring light into a dark world. One who is shy, bashful, almost introverted around adults, but comes to life when talking to children. Any children.
Like the special moments a year or two ago with young girls at the Coretta Scott King Leadership Academy in Atlanta, named after her mother, where she culminated an empowerment program for young ladies in the gymnasium. Most celebrities ask all their friends to come out to celebrate them. Dr. Bernice A. King asks her friends to come out to celebrate and lift up these young people.
Or like earlier this week, the world (literally) saw Dr. King in front of a global audience, experienced by a quarter million and viewed by millions (television). She was communicating the power of her father's work, seeking to 'pay it forward' for those leaders today who must still commit to complete this unfinished work.
But once again, I saw another person. I saw a person, not an embodiment. I also saw a leader who when she had an opportunity to see just about anyone she wanted in Washington, D.C., chose to sit with, talk to and share (once again) her friends with — kids! Inner-city and working class and low-wealth kids, of every race and creed who attend School Without Walls in the District. This is where Dr. King spent a day — a full day — just before the famed 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Not satisfied with impacting just a 'few' youth, she encouraged her 'friends' at Discovery Education, and her 'friends' at Kaplan University, to broadcast and share the 50th empowerment message from this day with other youth around the country.
Dr. Bernice King called in chits and favors on this day — spanning US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, Doris Crenshaw, Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, Dick Gregory, Hugh Price, Ernie Green (the Little Rock 9), Alveda King, Dr. Christine Farris, Ms. Naomi King (wife of the late A.D. King), and so many more. And yes, myself too.
What other leader– yet alone one with a global legacy to burden — do you know that would do this, spend their time in this way, on the day before the world was focused only on them, and in our nation's capital? Not many.
For this and so many other reasons, I not only support her, I also just admire, respect and like her. She is a likable person; one who is authentic, and who cares. It is also not lost on me that unlike the rest of us, she cannot go off and 'do as she likes.' She was born with a burden and a responsibility (with that name), and she has not blemished it once in 30 plus years of service to community. Now that is something.
And so, I showed up in Washington, D.C., just like all the others, simply because a 'good person' that cares asked me to. Good people, who happen to also be leaders, are in rare supply these days.
We should all try to show up in this way. I salute you my friend, Reverend Dr. Bernice A. King.
John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, author, advisor, and one of the nation's most recognized empowerment leader. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, The Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.