Standing in front of my 4th-grade class, I was wearing what we now would romantically call a Toga. It was more like a big white sheet wrapped around my small body which was not much to look at. And, I was stammering as I tried my best to engage in showing how a similarly clad frail man changed the world with his demonstration of non-violence in a far-off country – India. Now both are common knowledge, but in Dallas, in the 1960s it was very different than others had dressed up as their “role model”.
Leadership topic - Martin Luther King Jr
I obviously knew about Martin Luther King Jr, who we celebrated Monday. And, there was so much of his story as a young man that I didn’t know. Like his name not actually being that at least until he was 5. Not until his Father confronted Nazi’s in person in Germany, reminding him of the power of the first Luther to stand up for his beliefs
He faced unbelievable hatred and fear almost every day. And, he would be damned if he let that be seen by others, let alone dissuade him from his Vision – once he caught it…
… and realized it had to be positive to make a difference. And that it laid in front him down the path his Father, Grandfather, and Great-Grandfather had blazed. So as much as he wanted to set his own path, that Vision eventually became the one that has changed all of us… if we stay true to it, and our own. Each of us has the ability down there – it is just a matter of having the courage to dig for it.
Continuing to dig deeper into MLK’s life, we see him go into college and grad school… before he would Know exactly how he wanted to change the world around him. Chance encounters with music highlight his path, including the choice of a life partner that was critical.
We also see him be included with a group of strong friends and mentors, eventually being asked to step up – as he was the “new guy”. Knowing, or maybe not, that step would put him on a path to the March, and the Speech that we all Know him most for.
These stories also remind us that at the time, he never really Knew if this would work, or was his path. And, he had a faith that kept him recharged, along with music to uplift and hold him throughout. Knowledge and Vision – critical to a discussion of DEI… and one that we will have his own favorite songs as the soundtrack for.
managing the Vision of MLK
“The bullet stopped just half-an-inch before the backbone, and if it had stopped a half-an-inch earlier, it would have lodged in a major artery. Either way, this dog is lucky to be alive”… and with that, the lights went out. I awakened a few minutes later in another room on a soft couch with a cold rag on my forehead… I had no idea how I managed to get there…
partners in your Vision
“You could come back with me!” the young 14-year-old “Tom Hanks” exclaimed towards the end of Big. Having found that his child-like spirit was a major gift in business, he missed his friends and partners… and being able to really be a kid. The response from his ‘girlfriend’ is timeless: “No, one time being in junior high is plenty”. And I am eternally grateful that the actual movies of my era are on media that are very hard for anyone to find and post anywhere…
Visions observed are Visions…
“He will make a fine judge”. I was probably 2 years old, and old wise woman from West Texas had pronounced this after feeling the lumps on my head – and there are plenty you can see these days without hair. 😉 That simple sentence put me on the path to learning what to do with the deep bass voice I had at 14 in the body of a 4’10” pre-teen still in boy’s shirts. I stepped up to deliver my first speech…
I was the last speaker in the last round of this debate tournament, at least for our team. It was the one tournament I had invited my parents to come and see me perform in my new VIsion: Debate. I had been tearing it up on the trail across Texas, winning many rounds and tournaments, with “hardware” (trophies) becoming a natural thing to bring back home to Tyler late almost every Saturday night. This was not that wonderful experience.
I wasn’t Valedictorian… because of my mouth. I called a teacher Stupid – and let me plead my case… no don’t. I earned an “Unsatisfactory” in conduct, and my father got me out of being suspended, but nonetheless, I was barred from his Senior Honors Class. No worries – I had my pick of colleges, although every one of my family went to Texas Tech – including my Grandfather, who taught there. And again if you read these articles often, you know that was out of the question.
Vision that renews
Standing in the middle of the SMU Basketball court at barely 17, I was surrounded by tables labeled “Dedman College”, “Fondren”, and “Cox” which at least had “School of Business” in the name. It was the last day for “Registration” and I had a deck of computer cards, which at least I was very familiar with – what to DO with them, I was not. I had the college catalog that showed what a “Freshman Engineer” should take… but how did I get that to happen?
Knowledge to engage
As I was slowly awakening, I noticed that my feet were really hurting. And, that it was really cold. Both made sense when I realized I was halfway to my 8 am Statics class, running so I wouldn’t be late for the exam… with no shoes and barely a shirt on with early morning temps in the ’30s – cold for Texas. I am sure I made quite the sight running in at the last minute. I had studied, but now I realized why the 8 am MWF class was still open during registration 😉
Charlie’s Angels was one of the top shows when I was a freshman, and everyone had “THE” poster of Farrah Fawcett in the mostly not swimsuit on their walls. And there was a girl in our sister dorm that was her spitting image. To get people to know each other, there were “mixers” between the floors, and this night it was the typical loud music and beer, and not really my scene, so I went downstairs… and there she was sitting on the steps. I didn’t really Know what to do, but I sat down and asked her if she was not enjoying the mixer? “Not really my scene – I would rather be out dancing.” I said I knew how to dance (those lessons came in handy…), and once she learned I had a car, we were off.
partnerships in Knowledge
As I rolled into her apartment, I was trying to make some idle chatter as it was clear we were both nervous. It was our first official “date” although we had gone out with our Church group a number of times, and this was the next logical step. The Student Government Group for the Engineering School was hosting a banquet which I had asked her to. I mentioned, “… and we have a really great band for the dance after”. Frozen does not begin to capture the mood that instantly appeared…
Knowledge that observing is not enough
Working full time, and carrying a full load, I still had some energy left for other things. My interest in politics had burned out by the end of high school, but this evening, I was sitting in a meeting of the Leadership Council for the Engineering School observing the President. Being a lifelong student of great salespeople, this guy was amazing. And so full of himself at the same time. But for some reason, he came over after the meeting, and we started talking, and the next thing I know, I was the Parliamentarian for the group (given my Debate experience) … and next in line to be President…
wonder about Knowledge
The beautiful spring evening was interrupted with a “fire alarm” that had all the students from the largest set of dorms on campus outside. As we were milling around wondering, a young man climbed out on the balcony with his guitar, an amp and microphone, and started serenading the crowd. It was a great distraction and everyone loved it. A few minutes later, he announced his name, and that he was running for student body president and wanted everyone’s vote. It would have been great, but we had our own candidate in the election…
executing with and without Knowledge
Sitting with 6 Seniors as a sophomore was not that different for me. I had always been younger than my classmates having started school at barely 5. The instructor was my adviser in the Physics program… who suggested I take the class as he only taught it every other year. When he started writing Maxwell’s equations on the board, I asked an obvious question to me: “What is the upside-down triangle?” He suggested I come see him after class…
Knowing how and who to renew
As we were cleaning out the apartment, moving apart for our first “real jobs”, my best friend and roommate came into the living room with a handful of ties. “Can you tie these for me?” He was one of the smartest people I have ever known, and yet, had no Knowledge of some of the simpler things that are important. I understood – as I had been through this exact experience when I was 13 and someone showed me how to tie a tie before a big event in Junior High. Now I was able to repay and renew that favor…