Martin Luther-King (1929-1968)
“I have a dream”
Martin Luther King is a wonderful example of magnanimity. Magnanimity is the virtue of persons who are at once philosophers and men of action.
King was a non-violent civil rights activist for blacks in the United States. In 1963 he wrote from his Birmingham jail: “When you have seen vicious mobs lynch your fathers and mothers at will, drown your brothers and sisters with pleasure; when you have seen hate-filled policemen cursing, beating, brutalizing and even killing your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the great majority of your twenty million black brothers suffocating in the foul prison of poverty, in an opulent society; when you constantly fight the devastating feeling of being no one; then you understand why we find it so hard to wait. There comes a time when the cup is full and men can not bear to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, gentlemen, that you will understand our legitimate and inevitable impatience.
Martin Luther King preached nonviolence, but he did not hesitate to practice the right anger that stimulates daring and engenders action. King tells us that gentleness is a mistake and a sin when justice and common sense require anger.
In this same letter from his Birmingham jail he writes:”For years I have heard this word:Wait!.It resonates in my ear, as in every black, with a piercing familiarity. We must see with one of our eminent jurists that “justice too late is denial of justice”.I almost came to the unfortunate conclusion that the big obstacle to blacks fighting for their freedom, it is not the member of the White Citizen Counciler, nor that of the Ku Klux Klan, but the moderate White.who thinks he can fix, in good paternalistic, a calendar for the liberation of another man ; who cultivates the myth of time-who-works-for-you and constantly advises the black man to wait for a more opportune moment .We waited for more than three hundred and forty In the constitutional rights of our Creator more and more, I think that bad people use time much more effectively than good people. We will have to repent in this generation, not only for the words and actions of hateful people, but for the dreadful silence of people of good will.We must use time creatively, knowing that the time has always come for do good”
Avoir laissé passer l’occasion, ne pas avoir entrepris par peur ou par paresse, voilà ce qui fait souffrir plus que tout un esprit magnanime. Pour le magnanime, le mal ce n’est pas le mal que font les autres, c’est le bien que lui, personnellement, ne fait pas. Un cœur magnanime ne craint pas l’erreur : il craint l’inaction.
Martin Luther King was a melancholy daring.His regular fits of melancholy prevented him from overcoming his fears and getting into action. This deeply contemplative man was the first to fight for the rights of black citizens in the United States. He organized the march to Washington for work and freedom which was a huge success. More than 250,000 people of all ethnicities met on August 28, 1963 in the face of the Lincoln Memorial, in what was the largest protest ever held in the history of the US capital.
The highlight of this march was King’s speech “I have a dream”. This statement is considered one of the best speeches in American history. King improvised, “I’m telling you here and now, my friends, though, yes, although we face challenges today and tomorrow I always have that dream: it’s a deep-seated dream in the world. American ideal. I dream that one day our country will rise and live fully the true reality of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”.
Martin Luther King tells us that leadership begins with the dream. The dream is indeed the essence of magnanimity. Leaders are dreamers whose dreams translate into action. The dream of pusillanimity is a chimera. The dream of the magnanimous is a reality: it is directed towards action.
On April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, King he delivered a poignant speech with premonitory resonances: “I do not know what will happen now. We have before us difficult days. But I do not care what will happen to me, because I went to the top of the mountain. I do not worry anymore. Like everyone else, I would like to live a long time. Longevity has its price. But I do not care. I just want the will of God to be done. And it allowed me to reach the top of the mountain. I looked around me. And I saw the promised land. I may not enter it with you. But I want to let you know tonight that our people will reach the promised land. I’m happy tonight. I do not worry about anything. I do not fear any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Martin Luther King was a dreamer and actor, a man of grandeur and service. He infused into the heart of every American black a high sense of his own dignity. And that’s what leadership is all about.