The Dreams of Martin Luther King, and the Role of Community Foundations

Last week, the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. 

I was only eleven years old, but I remember it well.  At the time I worked as a paperboy, delivering the afternoon newspaper (The News-Sentinel) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. What I remember most was how many people were their front porch steps that next afternoon, waiting for news of what happened.  That’s how you got your news in 1968 – you read it when the paper was delivered.

From the hindsight of 50 years, a lot of progress has been made in race relations.  I can recall as a young boy going to a restaurant in a southern city and seeing a “colored only” sign.  Those days are gone forever.  But you only need to watch the evening news to realize that we still have a long way to go.

What does this have to do with community foundations?  You, as leaders of the community, can be the voice for those things that Dr. King held dear:  Civility.  Inclusion.  Hope for the future.

Community foundations were not, in most cities, viewed as leaders in 1968.  Now your friends and neighbors look to you to be at the head of the parade -- to lead your community to the land that Dr. King dreamed of.  Dr. King said it best when he said:

 “We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. ... And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.”

The kind of leadership a community foundation can provide is crucially needed.  What you do, every day, is important.  Keep the dream alive.