Communication is King

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Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking

This week, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King. We do so because he advocated tirelessly to change this nation - for the betterment of all its citizens.

Knowing words have power - just like America’s Founding Fathers - Dr. King chose his words carefully.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he challenged America to re-examine those carefully chosen words in its founding documents.

In his I Have A Dream speech, Dr. King said,

"In a sense we have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds'."

Almost everyone knew that to be true. But, knowing this hadn’t spurred action in America yet. Life was comfortable for many Americans, and comfort is one of the biggest barriers to change.

Dr. King chose his words carefully, knowing the only way America could change is if we changed together. He rose to the occasion.

Through his language, Dr. King created a movement that looked like his Dream. Men and women of all ages, races, religious beliefs, and ideologies joined Dr. King’s non-violent movement across the entire country.

Today you have to wonder if Dr. King’s message would resonate. "Leaders" aren’t calling for unity, or a great coming together. Social media highlights divisions and tensions, making it easier to become an 'influencer' by slamming the other side. Politically, both sides seem hell-bent on canceling the other out, despite the language written into the U.S. Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The Founders knew we rise and fall together. Dr. King knew this, too.

Communication is King. Dr. King knew he couldn’t influence people by castigating them and calling them names. As Painted Porch CEO, Amy Yack, says, "You can’t influence other people or compel them to change by making them feel like shit."

Creating a Union only happens by growing your numbers, not shrinking them. Dr. King called on a nation to change, to run towards the idea of a ‘more perfect Union,’ instead of slowly dragging our way towards the right direction. Dr. King led a nation with the power of his words. While there is still plenty of work to be done, we are further along our journey because of Dr. King’s legacy and language.


Explore ways you can deliver confident communication with Painted Porch Strategies' 4-week Master Your Message program dedicated to helping you harness the power of your voice to deliver your message clearly, concisely, and compassionately.

Image Source: Santi Visalli / Getty (via The Atlantic)