It’s advice season. With countless graduations and speeches and cards and gifts and wishes well, we’re mostly a bit more mindful as spring springs into summer.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is on my Mt. Rushmore of heroes. His “I Have A Dream” speech is deservedly in the canon of great American orations.
Yet, it’s not my personal favorite speech of Dr. King’s. Granted, I’m a white, middle-class male born in 1970, so its salience for me is vastly different from a young man or woman from Selma or even Seattle back on August 28, 1963… or even earlier this week.
If you’re a person of color, and you’d like to talk with me about your opinions on what’s become simply known as “The Speech,” I’m eager to listen… not talk… at all… but listen to what you think and believe.
He had much more than a dream.
Six months before he was killed, Dr. King spoke to Junior High students in Philadelphia.
His advice to them remains my favorite advice to anyone ever.
He closes his short talk called “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” with this:
And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
Thank you, Dr. King. You can read the entirety of the short speech here.
In the meantime, let’s all strive to be the best of whatever we are.