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King's Road Map for Life
By: Erica R. Eaddy

Atlanta, GA

 

The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. grew out of his personal philosophy and life
story, which laid out a road map for life that would be of great benefit if followed by the leaders
of today and tomorrow. Dr. Martin Luther King was a great man, a profound orator, a Nobel
Prize winner, a husband, and a father. First and foremost, Dr. King was a Christian who firmly
believed in the tenets of the faith. These Christian ideals permeated his entire life, starting from
an early age. His father, who was a Baptist preacher, even renamed him from Michael King to
Martin Luther, after the founder of Protestantism. Dr. King embraced these teachings which
gave him a solid foundation to serve as not only a spiritual leader, but also as a practical
tactician—in some ways following the path of his namesake so many hundreds of years ago.
Dr. King made his ideas regarding leadership very clear when he said: "The urgency of
the hour calls for leaders of wise judgment and sound integrity—leaders not in love with money
but in love with justice; leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity; leaders
who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause." (Hoskins). This quote
provides a succinct description of the way Dr. King approached leading the civil rights
movement, in addition to providing the criteria for others whom he considered to be worthy of
emulation. In keeping with the leadership example provided by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King used
the strategy of non-violence to guide the civil disobedience and protest that challenged the
injustice that was so prevalent in the country at that time. The leaders of today and tomorrow
would be very well served should they also choose to confront those issues that undermine
quality of life for our fellow citizens, such as failing schools, lack of healthcare and high crime
rates in poor communities. His dream would include their taking on the mantle of leadership out
of their love for others, rather than in an attempt to enhance their resumes.

       The name of Martin Luther King, Jr. usually conjures up images of a powerful leader
who took up the civil rights challenge for African Americans, poor people, the disenfranchised,
and against violent conflicts between countries. In 13 short years, Dr. King was able to effect
significant change with the assistance and sacrifices of individuals from all races. (Films, Inc.).
His support was also derived from people of many faiths who were committed and willing to
serve.

      When I consider my dream for myself, my community, and the nation, I am reminded
that several historians suggest that King's theoretical framework came from Agape Love or a
divinely inspired devotion that encompasses a profound fondness for all humanity. (Armstrong).
This is how I attempt to live my life, although I must admit, not always very successfully. Like
Dr. King, I try to see the good in most people. This has resulted in my feeling the need to stand
up for others when they are being mistreated. This connection with my fellow human being is
demonstrated when I challenge the ignorant, racist, sexist or homophobic statements that I often
hear around me. This does not always make me the most popular person in the room, but I feel
very strongly that society will not change for the better unless the members of that society are
willing to play a role in the work it takes to move our fellow citizens in the right direction.

      I believe that striving to exemplify love for my fellow human being will not only benefit
everyone with whom I come into contact, but it will also benefit me, as it did Dr. King. He lived
just 39 short years, but his achievements and positive change were more effective than anyone
who lived twice that age. Indeed, doing for others, caring for others, and loving each other isn't
relegated to a certain age; it can and should start in childhood and extend throughout our
lifetime. Love's an evolutionary process that can effect change at every stage of one's lifespan.
I hope that as I grow and develop over the years, I will more effectively impact my community.

      I hope to make my dreams a reality via Dr. King's type of Agape love. Dr. King's
demonstration of Agape love has also inspired me to pursue my career choice in biology; as I
desire to ultimately specialize as a geneticist. I want to exemplify his commitment to others by
inspiring hope through developing treatments for patients and families who have been affected
by chromosomal disorders or genetic anomalies that cause great pain and suffering. I will focus
heavily on research in an attempt to alleviate much of this suffering. My desire to become a
geneticist dates back to my 10th grade biology course. After completing a couple of pedigrees
on hypothetical families, I was hooked. I even submitted a related project to the Governors
Honors Program and was selected as an alternate in biology. Some people may consider
becoming a geneticist as being unrelated to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., I however see
reaching out to help others who find themselves in very difficult situations, as being very much
so consistent with the spirit of the work to which Dr. King devoted his life.

      In considering the origins of Dr. King's preparation for leadership, some of my favorite
stories about him come from his childhood. He was a very serious student who graduated high
school and attended college at a young age. While I have not quite reached that level of
achievement, his dedication to his education has inspired me to take my studies very seriously
for as long as I can remember. His willingness to demonstrate his abilities was also very
encouraging for me. Being a successful student can have its drawbacks, as some classmates are
less than kind to the "smart kids". Even in his youth, Dr. King displayed his gifts as a leader
rather than a follower, a trait that I also try to let guide my behavior. I have stepped forward to
lead projects during my 13 years as a Girl Scout and through my church, that have been of
benefit for my community. I plan to continue these volunteer efforts while in college, and will
look for opportunities to connect with other students around the country in order to be part of
efforts, through peaceful protest if need be, to move our nation toward greater equality and justice.

 

Bibliography

Armstrong, T., Carson, C, Carson, S., Cook, E., & Englander, S. (2008). The Martin
Luther King, Jr. Encyclopedia.
New York: Greenwood Press.

Hoskins, L. (1968). I Have a Dream; the Quotations of Martin Luther King Jr. New
York: Grossed & Dunlap.

Martin Luther King: Legacy of a Dream [Documentary], (1989). USA: Films
Incorporated.

 

 

 

 

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