The Dr. Martin Luther King holiday is one of my favorites. One reason is that he's the only federal holiday figure who was alive during my lifetime and whom I actually met in my youth! Of course at age 14 I had no idea that he'd become a towering historical figure inspiring millions of people. Perhaps his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech from 1963 still resonates most with generations of people. I'm grateful for his dream because it lit a fire under my own aspirations. Like many Americans of all colors and cultures, my dream was to someday own a business and map out my own pathway in this life.
Since I launched my TV production business in 1988, I've celebrated the life of Dr. King by being open for business on his federal holiday because I believe that he and his fellow activists put themselves in harm's way so that I could live a life rich in opportunities. My professional life has been rooted in dreams and if I had to choose one Dr. King speech to chisel in stone, it would be the "I have a dream" speech. His words were "I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
But that was not his only speech that could stir the ambitions of anyone with thoughts of excellence. In the "Street Sweeper" speech his words were "And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are." To me those words were better than the best coach's half-time locker room motivation!
On our "Making It" TV show, we've had the privilege of telling the stories of over 1,000 diverse small business owners! The unifying force for all of them was that their enterprises whether one person or twelve hundred people in size began with a dream and grew with a focus on being the best they could. These men and women who are so different in their outward appearance and backgrounds are linked by the accomplishment of living their dreams. This is why I see them as beacons of light that can guide us along our very own but similar pathways in this life.
Sometimes I'm concerned that since Dr. King uttered his memorable words over 52 years ago we celebrate the holiday without celebrating his transcendent thoughts and actions. Too many people believe the dream is beyond their grasp. Whenever I hear elected officials minimizing the value and accomplishments of business men and women in this country I cringe at their lack of knowledge or understanding. I want them to hold up their own soaring dreams that excite us to ambitious and shared accomplishment as Dr. King did. Choose any slice of our history that you like, including the founding of The United States of America and look behind the headlines to see who built the American dream. I think you'll see that it was business owners ranging from farmers to railroad titans to the struggling inventors creating new technologies. These people were dreamers too, the architects of greatness, looking beyond the mists of doubt to weave their tapestries. Our country stands upon the land that dreamers found and only things the dreamers made live on today."
So, no matter what you choose to do on the King holiday, I hope that your own dreams play an important part. Have a look around and see the realized opportunities and accomplished people that he dreamed of. I recall that in his dream speech he was not asking for any handouts, only for access to opportunities. That remains the Holy Grail for all enterprising men and women today, regardless of who they are or where they came from. The dream is still alive and evolving!