MLK’s Timelessness

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

23 January 2020

We’re in the third week of January. If you live in the U.S., you likely observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday. While listening to the radio and scrolling through my social media feeds, I paused and reflected on a few of the Reverend Doctor’s quotes. While written decades ago, as most visionaries prove, his words contain an element of timelessness. Here are a few of my favorites and why.

Drive Out Hate With Love

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Our society seems divided these days. Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Do you support President Trump or enjoy watching his impeachment unfold? Do you vaccinate your children, or do you proclaim to be anti-vax? Do you believe in abortion or think every life matters?

Since social media has been a part of our everyday lives, the lines seem to get thicker and darker. If you believe one way, you cannot be open to understanding the viewpoints of the other. And if you stand firmly in one ideal, you cannot be friends with someone who doesn’t agree. This is where listening to Dr. King’s wisdom comes in. He wasn’t around for the internet age, but his words hold some wisdom for us today. If we hate others for their opinions, they’ll likely hate us for ours. The thicker we draw lines in the sand, the harder they’ll be to cross.

Another one of his gems is, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

You don’t say, Dr. King. Our world is closer than it ever was before. We can video chat with people 10,000 miles away with a click of a button. We can read news stories from any country on the planet. When Dr. King was alive, many of us in U.S. might not have been aware of the fires burning in Australia. The amount of money raised to help the people displaced by the fires wouldn’t have been as great. Living together will help us flourish together.

Writing the Book of Life

And finally, my favorite quote from the Reverend Doctor,

In a sense every day is judgment day, and we, through our deeds and words, our silence and speech, are constantly writing in the Book of Life. Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

I love the idea of writing in the Book of Life. Perhaps that’s why I write and why I’ll never stop. Our words matter because they can alter the way people think. Working in my field – marketing and brand management – it’s something we deal with every day.

Money can be made by being less than honest in marketing. The tobacco industry’s touting the health benefits of tobacco and Volkswagen’s touting the environmental soundness of its cars are just two examples. If Big Tobacco and Volkswagen had cared about what they were doing for (or to) others, they may have made different choices. Let’s learn from them and make better choices – day in and day out.

If we do, maybe we can make Dr. King’s example as timeless as his words.