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“King” Size Admiration

by Guest Contributor on January 17, 2011

Guest post by Jennifer WilburMartin Luther King, pictured during the 'I Have A Dream' speech at the Lincoln Memorial

“Early morning, April 4

Shot rings out in the Memphis sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride”

-U2

Dr. King and I could not have been more different.

He was a man; I’m a woman. He was black; I am one pale redhead. He was a devout Christian, while I choke at the concepts of a supreme being and organized religion.

Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize (to name one); I think I have a trophy from a bowling tournament I won at 8 years old. He only lived to see his 39th year, and I find myself whining occasionally about having crossed the big 4-0 bridge.

One important difference is Dr. King’s strong identity as an activist willing to lay everything on the line for what he believed was right. I wish I had more of that.

Now, I’m no wilting Wanda, and have and share strong opinions when I’m in the mood, but I was never one of those people that really put my money where my mouth was. I can talk to the talk, but walking it? Um, maybe tomorrow?

I can get my message across when I want and need to. I mean, I am a public relations pro after all, but I am a much better communicator using the written word.

Have you heard Dr. King speak? I mean, come on. I tear up every single time I experience that passion and conviction.

He and I both had a dream.

His dream, of course, was a much larger epic and much more important to society as a whole.

Mine was just as important to me. We both believe a peaceful world would be better for all and that there is no reason for racial discourse. My dream was to do my own thing without having to answer to someone every minute and not waste time on any more useless meetings.

Not quite as valiant, I understand, but that’s what made me take the big jump into the solo PR consultant world six years ago.

Dr. King died just a few hours before I was born.

I just missed him; he was my hero. Few people impress me, but I’ve felt connected to, and worshiped, Dr. King for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s because I was born the day he was assassinated. Maybe it’s because I grew up with many interracial relationships and children in my extended family.

Or I suppose I could have just been sucked in by his charisma and overall passion.

More likely, my heart was pulled to Dr. King by his undying confidence and courage applied to his great communication and leadership skills. And yes, let’s not forget his forgiving tolerance for others’ human weaknesses.

As a self-employed woman, I need all of the above every single day.

Without it, I cannot do the right thing for my clients or me. I wouldn’t be able to handle tough decisions (often doing the right thing is tougher than the alternative), drive new business, deal with difficult clients and daily challenges, or deal with day-to-day doldrums.

When people first think of Dr. King, they think of the civil rights struggle. That battle continues, and not just from a racial standpoint (gay marriage anyone?). But he is one of the best examples of how with conviction, drive and passion – and hard work – can achieve their dream.

I applaud the constant celebration of Dr. King in school, art, communities and the annual national holiday, which we mark in 2011 today. I also hope that we’ll all extol the leadership traits he possessed to the future generation of entrepreneurs.

Future whiz kids and go-getters, if you have even an iota of the energy Dr. King had, you’ll do very well. Do him (and your team) a favor and honor him by practicing patience and tolerance with his tenacity.

And if you believe in something, fight for it.

We know Dr. King wasn’t perfect (who is?), but he continues to inspire me. Just writing this stoked a personal fire that’s been resting in embers for some time.

Now that’s power.

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Image: BlatantNews.com via Flickr, Creative Commons

Jennifer Wilbur is an independent PR professional and principal of Rockstar Communications. In her spare time, you’ll most likely catch her at the beach with her two French Bulldogs taking pictures of other dogs playing at the beach. Follow her on Twitter and check out her photo blog, A Dog’s Beach.

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