TED speakers like to reference Dr King.
For example, Simon Sinek, in his talk “How great leaders inspire action”, spoke of how he went around telling people what he believed, and how people who believed what he believed took his cause and made it their own… and “By the way, he gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.”
And Benjamin Zander, on “The transformative power of classical music”, said: “It’s one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming. Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, ‘I have a dream. Of course, I’m not sure they’ll be up to it’.”
That day in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Dr King said: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair… I have a dream today! … From every mountainside, let freedom ring.” Five years later, on the day before he died, Luther King delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech:
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Once I saw an ad, and it was a lot of friends, they were going up a mountain, it was a very high mountain, and it was a lot of work. You could see that they were sweating and this was tough. And they were going up, and they finally made it to the peak. Of course, they decided to celebrate, right? I’m going to celebrate, so, “Yes! We made it, we’re at the top!” Two seconds later, one looks at the other and says, “Okay, let’s go down.”
Life is never about the goals themselves. Life is about the journey. Yes, you should enjoy the goals themselves, but people think that you have dreams, and whenever you get to reaching one of those dreams, it’s a magical place where happiness will be all around. But achieving a dream is a momentary sensation, and your life is not. The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of your journey. That’s the best way.
Dr King had dreamed of a better world, a new reality, and he had climbed the mountain. And yet it wasn’t about the mountain, but about the view over the mountain to what lies ahead. King was killed for his dream – dreams can exact a great price – but King’s dream has not been killed, and King’s cause is still being taken up by people the world over. Some of us have scaled the peaks and glimpsed the Promised Land, some are still toiling in the foothills, and we are all still on the journey. From every mountainside, let freedom ring!