In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2008

I originally wrote the below post for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2007. Thought I’d repost it again today in honor and celebration of one of America’s greatest leaders.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and in recognition of the holiday last night I reread his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963). I am sure that I must have read it previously in a highschool or college civics course but I more recently became re-acquainted with it when I participated in Aspen Institute’s Executive Seminar last May. If you have not read it or need a refresher like me, you can find online and downloadable versions here.

I believe that King’s letter is an amazing work for many reasons with one of the most important being that it effectively frames the difficult conversation. This is no small feat. Sitting in a jail cell presents a limited range of options for leadership but King quickly responds to the opportunity created by the Alabama clergymen’s public statement (April 12, 1963) directed at him regarding the nonviolent demonstrations taking place in their community. It is a very powerful piece of writing and worth the time it takes to read closely.

When I think of Martin Luther King Jr., I immediately think of the words vision, mission and values. To me King clearly demonstrates the power and importance in connecting these three concepts in order to accomplish what he set out to do. As a leader, King takes advantage of opportunities to communicate his vision, mission and values to wide audiences. His letter from a Birmingham jail may have been written to the Alabama clergymen, but his intended audience was anyone who was concerned about racial injustice in Alabama and across the nation.

To me the jumping off point for all of this in the need to identify the core values that will guide the creation of a vision and the setting of a mission for an organization or cause. In establishing Sea-Fever LLC, and a new nonprofit organization to be called Sea-Changes Foundation, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what core values are important to me. (Sea-Fever LLC’s Core Values.) I will be writing more about Core Values in the future. Please check back in and feel free to join in the conversation.

Finally, it had been a while since I watched Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech (August 28, 1963). Like reading Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I believe it is worth taking the time to watch this video.

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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