The Power of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Words

As we reflect back on the life of a great man on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I think about what a dynamic speaker this man was. He had the unparalleled ability to not only powerfully deliver the message, but to choose positive, inspiring words.

Never once did I hear him utter a “non-positive” word. Non-positive words are neither positive nor negative, they’re somewhere in the middle. Some of the most frequently used non-positives are “think,” “believe” and “feel,” as in “I think I provide excellent service.” That begs the question, do you or don’t you? Other examples of non-positives include “hopefully,” “probably” and “maybe.”

But Martin Luther King Jr. never equivocated. He was never wishy-washy. He was always direct, positive and confident. One of my favorite examples is when he spoke in Birmingham, AL, on the night before his death April 4, 1968. As he finished his rousing speech, he prophetically concluded “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promise land.”

Despite the previous five days of social unrest during which 2,500 African Americans were jailed, there appeared to be no doubt in his mind about getting to the promise land. No “I think,” “I believe,” “maybe” or “hopefully,” just a simple, yet profound “we as a people will get to the promise land.”

And now, here we are 41 years later on the eve of the U. S. Presidential Inauguration of the first African American U. S. President. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words inspired a generation of Americans of all races and, perhaps, a young boy by the name of Barrack Obama.

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