01/21/2013 08:44 am ET Updated Mar 23, 2013

Lessons from MLK: 50 Years Later

In 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. published his powerful piece about equality in the New York Times, the only people who read it were those who had access to a hard copy of the newspaper. And just two years ago, if you wanted to see the letter that Nelson Rockefeller wrote to Dr. King in 1964, wishing him a happy birthday and congratulating him for a "Man of the Year" award, you'd have to travel to Atlanta, Georgia to see it.

Nearly 50 years later, a slew of technological advances have allowed us to partner with The King Center to turn Dr. King's physical archive into a digital one, creating opportunities for anyone, anywhere to learn about his legacy.

Dr. King was about opportunity and equal access for all. And on the 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech and the march on Washington, we think it's a great moment to reflect on all that he stood for and taught us.

For Dr. King, opportunity and equal access are the building blocks of a just society. He believed that if we provide education and training, more people can have jobs, live in affordable and safe housing, and, ultimately, build stronger communities.

In 50 years, we have come a long way. We now have a black president, more high school students are going to college than ever before, according to The National Center of Education Statistics, and the list of ways in which we've progressed goes on. However, in some communities, some of the same struggles that existed in Dr. King's day still exist -- where people lack access to education, can't read, and remain unemployed because of a mismatch between their skill set and the jobs that are available.

As a leading financial services firm, our people are our biggest asset. We believe that enabling opportunity and access -- to education and to jobs -- will create the talent that we need to grow our economy. That's why we invest in communities through programs that provide workforce development and enhance education opportunities.

We partner with other organizations -- both public and private -- for initiatives like Skills for Chicagoland's Future, which helps align employer demand with training programs to ensure that graduates of these programs are able to obtain jobs and retain them for the long-term. It sounds simple -- create training programs that coincide with the job needs of today -- but it's not that easy. There is a disconnect between the training programs and the jobs that are out there.

Together with programs like Skills for Chicagoland's Future, we're aiming to create a pipeline that connects people who've been re-trained with jobs in today's innovative, cutting edge industries. We're taking a holistic approach toward catalyzing systemic change to ensure greater access to opportunity for all and for each citizen of this great country to realize their dreams.

We believe we're making progress toward realizing Dr. King's dream for a society in which "all men are created equal," and "are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." And we continue to evolve the traditional model of philanthropy, from simply charity to one that is about investing in programs and systemic initiatives that leverage private dollars.