October 30, 2015, Pop was visiting me and requested to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in DC. It was my first time visiting this moving and wonderfully crafted memorial. It was also nice to see Pop engaged and also moved as we walked and stood before the tall and bold statue and read the many profound and timely quotes.
As we acknowledge and celebrate Dr. King’s life, legacy and birthday today, with tremendous gratitude for all he was and continues to be, I wanted to share one of many of his motivating and inspiring speeches. Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967. It was 30 years ago, almost to the day that Pop and I visited the memorial. I encourage you to read the transcript below and/or see the video here. You can never hear too much of Dr. King’s mesmerizing and captivating voice and presence and his methodical delivery. https://youtu.be/ZmtOGXreTOU
This speech speaks of the importance of having self-worth, discovering and living your purpose, keeping your dreams to the forefront of living a purposeful life, perseverance, giving it your all to make it your best, and doing it all while moving and moving and moving with integrity and love. Keep on moving lovelies. There should be no shame in your game. Whatever is for YOU is for YOU! Speak power to it. Find joy in it. Live it. Breath it. Love it. Peace. Namaste. Oh, and Happy Birthday Dr. King! #BeDoLove #FindYourZen #BirthAndLiveYourSOULfullPurpose #HealingEqualsFreedom
What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?
I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is in your life’s blueprint?
This is the most important and crucial period of your lives, for what you do now and what you decide now, at this age may well determine which way your life shall go.
Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, as the model for those who are to build the building. And, building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.
Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.
And, I want to suggest some of the things that should be in your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you are nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.
Now that means that you should not be ashamed of your color. You know it’s very unfortunate that it I’m so many instances, our society has placed a stigma on the Negros color. You know that some Negros who are ashamed of themselves. But, don’t be ashamed of your color. Don’t be ashamed of your biological features. Somehow you must be able to say in your own lives and really believe it, I am black but beautiful. And, believe it… And, therefore you need not be lured into purchasing cosmetics advertised to make you lighter. Neither do you need to process your hair to make it appear straight. I have good hair and it’s as good as anybody else’s hair in the world. And, we gotta believe that.
Now in your life’s blueprint be sure that you have that of a principle of somebodiness.
Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as a basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. And, once you discover what is will be, set out to do it and to do it well.
And I say to you, my young friends, that doors are opening to each of you. Doors of opportunities opening to each of you that were not open to your mothers and to your fathers. And, the great challenge facing you is to be ready to enter these doors as they open.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture back in 1871, that “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”
That hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. And, I understand all the sociological reasons why we often drop out of school. But, I urge you in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live so often with intolerable conditions — stay in school.
And when you discover what you are gonna be in life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. And, don’t just set out to do a good Negro job. But, do a good job that anybody could do. Don’t set out to just be a good Negro doctor or a good Negro lawyer, or a good Negro school teacher, a good Negro preacher. A good Negro barber or beautician. A good Negro skilled laborer. For if you set out to do that you have already flunked your matriculation exam for entrance into the university of integration. Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
We already have some noble examples of Black men and Black women who demonstrated to us that human nature cannot be cataloged. They in their own lives have walked through long and desolate nights of oppression that yet they’ve risen up and plunged against cloud filled night of affliction. New and blazing stars of inspiration. And so from and old slave cabin of Virginia’s hills Booker T. Washington rose up of to be one of America’s great leaders. He lit a torch in Alabama and darkness fled in that setting. Yes, you should know this because it’s, in your own city. From a poverty stricken area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marian Anderson rose up to be the world’s greatest contralto so that a Tuscaniny can say that a voice like this comes only once in a century. And, Sibelius of Finland could say my roof is too low for such a voice. From the red hills of Gordon County, Georgia from the arms of a mother who could neither read nor write, Roland Hayes rose up to be one of the world’s great singers and carried his melodious voice into the palaces and mansions of kings and queens. From crippling circumstances there came a George Washington Carver to carve for himself an imperishable niche in the annals of science. There was a star in the diplomatic sky. And, then came Ralph Bunche, a grandson of a slave preacher. And, he reached up and grabbed it and allowed it to shine in his life with all of the scintillating beauty. There was a star in the athletic sky. Then came Jackie Robinson in his day and Willie Mayes in his day with their powerful bats and their calm spirits. Then came Jesse Owens with his fleeting dashing feet. Then came Joe Louis and Muhammed Ali with their educated fists. All of them came to tell us that we can be somebody. And, to justify the conviction of the port fleecing locks and black complexion cannot forfeit natures’ claim. Skin may differ, but affection dwells in black and white the same. And, if I were so tall as to reach the pole the grasp the ocean at a span I must be measured by my soul. The mind is a standard of the man.
Finally, in your life’s blueprint, must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice.
However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And, so you must be involved in the struggle for freedom and justice.
Now in this struggle for freedom and justice, there are many constructive things that we all can do. And, that we all must do. And, we must not give ourselves to those things which will not solve our problems.
You’ve heard the word nonviolent and you’ve heard the word violent. I happen to believe in nonviolence. We’ve struggled with this method with young people and adults alike. All over the south and we have won some significant victories. And, we gotta struggle with it all over the north. Because the problems are as serious in the north as they are in the south. But, I believe as we struggle with these problems we gotta struggle with them with a method that can be militant, but at the same time does not destroy life or property. And, so our slogan must not be burn baby burn, it must be build baby build. Organize baby organize. Yes, our slogan must be learn baby learn so that we can earn baby earn. And, with a powerful commitment I believe that we can transform dark days of injustice in to bright days of justice and humanity.
Let us keep going toward the goal of selfhood. Toward the realization of the dream of brotherhood. And, toward the realization of the dream of understanding, goodwill. Let nobody stop us.
I close by quoting once more the man that the young lady quoted. That magnificent black bar who has now passed on, Langston Hughes. One day he wrote a poem entitled “Mother to Son”. The mother didn’t always have her grammar right, but she uttered words of great symbolic profundity. Well, son I’ll tell you life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it. Boards torn up. Places with no carpet on the floor, bare. But, alls the time I’s been a climbing on and reaching landings and turning corners and sometimes going into dark where there ain’t been no light. So boy, don’t you stop now. Don’t you sit down on the steps cause you finds it’s kind of hard. But I’s still going on boy. I’s still climbing. And, life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
Well, life, for none of us, has been a crystal stair, but we must keep moving, we must keep going.
If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., What Is Your Life’s Blueprint? – Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967
Thank you for providing the full transcript! I’m planning a lesson using Dr. King’s speech and have only come across excepts. I want my student to listen and read the whole speech, for every word is important. You are obviously a fantastic teacher. Thank you for all you do for our students.
Ms. V, I’m so delighted to hear that this will support you in engaging and educating our beloved students. I appreciate the “fantastic teacher” comment. However, I’m not a teacher. just a lover of inspiring and informative people, places and things. The best to you on the remainder of the school year.