What Is Your Life’s Blueprint? Dr. Martin Luther King’s Less-Known Speech Teaches 3 Leadership Lessons We Can All Use Now

Issue 218 — January 16, 2023

January 16, 2023: The nation celebrates the birthday of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King today.

For many, the holiday acknowledging Dr. King’s transformational significance in American History has become primarily a welcome long weekend off from work. For others, it’s the opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy in secular and religious settings, as President Joe Biden did at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King had been the pastor.

As one indication of progress the U.S. has made toward racial equality, the church’s current pastor is a U. S. Senator, Raphael Warnock. Yet, as President Biden challenged those in the full pews where many heads were nodding in agreement, we are again in a time of choosing, between love and hate, community and chaos.

King’s actual birthdate is January 15. Born in 1929, he might well have still been alive to hear Biden’s speech and attend other celebrations had he — who preached nonviolent social change — not been murdered by an assassin’s bullet in 1968.

Often on this day, I have reshared King’s most famous and most quoted “I Have a Dream” speech. Its soaring rhetoric and high moral call to action retains its power to inspire.

But today, I highlight a lesser-known speech that he gave to students of Barratt Junior High School in 1967. In this speech, he asked the students to consider the question of what their life’s blueprint would be.

In this speech, King demonstrated at least three leadership lessons we can all use today in whatever seat we are sitting.

These same leadership lessons are applicable to all movements. Activist, organizer and founder of The Janes and the Midwestern Academy that has taught thousands of people how to make sustainable social change, Heather Booth, wrote about the power of grassroots organizing in a Take The Lead Power to Change Story. Not surprisingly, as was my personal experience, she had learned these basic organizing techniques in the Civil Rights Movement. Booth’s example applied those organizing techniques to women’s rights. After learning about women pregnant because of sexual assault, seeking abortions that were illegal in most states in the 1960’s — as they are again today in many states, Booth points out — she organized a network of women who called themselves The Janes to get information about safe providers to women who needed it.

Click here to watch the recorded livesteam of the Intentioning This event.

But whether you are leading a social movement or a Fortune 500 company, an entrepreneurial venture, a nonprofit service organization, a small team within any of those, or are an individual contributor, the three leadership lessons Dr. King exemplified in his speech to the Barratt Junior High School Students in Philadelphia apply.

May Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy always inspire us to lead effectively, have the courage to pursue a vision of equality and justice even when the going is tough, and to inspire the next generation to excellence in whatever blueprint they choose to create for their own lives.

GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Honored as Forbes 50 Over 50 2022, and Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.



Gloria Feldt is a New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization.

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Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is a New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization.