January 17, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      No mail today; in fact, your e-mail is slowed (still delivered, but on a holiday schedule). Today is a national holiday, called in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      War protesters detest war ... but they still accept the day off, with pay, when Memorial Day rolls around. People who still manifest some of the long-term residual effects of bigotry grouse about the banks being closed today ... but they still take the benefits of the day. The declaration of the MLK Day is fairly recent ... and the popular support was split regarding "National Holiday" status. Nonetheless, the man most associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century in America is now unforgettable; just look at your new calendar.

      Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who grew up at a time - and, in a place - much different than folks of today could imagine. America's social evolution includes periods of plateaus, when we were growing-up into what we now accept as "normal," and regard yesterday's "norms" as unfathomable.

      King's life was multilayered and history has unabridged volumes that fill in the blanks of his long-running effort to energize societal change regarding segregation and racial equality. With no doubt, his high-water-mark of leadership occurred on a hot summer day in 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. You could google "Martin Luther King, Jr."+"I Have a Dream" and be transported quickly to the whole text of that timeless address. I would be hard-pressed to read a sentence in that homily against which I would want to raise debate. The memorable core still rings with eloquence:

      "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' ... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today ...

      "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"

      Those words rang across the Capitol Mall ... and they continue to ring across 42 years of American history. They became the indisputable battle cry for people who joined King in his mission; today, they have even been edited into commercialization by companies hoping to snag momentum for their advertising from the compelling tone of King's passionate preaching.

      What a magnificent evidence of one of our underlying tenants in The Master's Program: leadership begins at the point of vision. Until someone can articulate a future that is different - in a desirable way - from the present, people remain uncompelled to take on the risky task of moving out of their current - albeit uncomfortable - conditions.

      Leaders don't need the majority behind them to stimulate significant change; they simply need a committed core who buy-in to the vision ... and are willing to execute the strategy raised by the visionary leader as the plan that will make the dream come true.

      We live at a time when change is imperative; find a measurable factor by which a culture manifests vitality ... and chances are, it predicts decline. We need leaders who have a dream - for a future more in tune with the biblical standards that have been jeered by the thought-leaders of today.

      Do you have a dream? Would you give the best part of your life to bring it to pass? May God give us leaders who say, "Yes."

Bob Shank

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