Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Maybe Violence Has a Future? Read This Book Before You Decide

Maybe you never thought violence had a future.  It’s been drilled into us since we were very young that violence was awful, even immoral or unethical.  We saw role modeling of famous non-violent demonstrations from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and throughout history, many passive rather than aggressive reactions to perceived unfavorable change.

Future of Violence CoverHowever, this new best-seller says differently.  The Future of Violence:  Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones – Confronting a New Age of Threat (Basic Books, 2015) paints a grim picture of a future filled with fear, and suggesting that the role of government in protecting us must change.

The authors, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum, are highly qualified to expand upon their thesis.

From the Brookings Institution web site, Wittes is listed as “a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He co-founded and is the editor-in-Benjamin Witteschief of the Lawfare blog, which is devoted to sober and serious discussion of “Hard National Security Choices,” and is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on National Security and Law. He is the author of Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo, published in November 2011, co-editor of Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change, published in December 2011, and editor of Campaign 2012: Twelve Independent Ideas for Improving American Public Policy (Brookings Institution Press, May 2012). He is also writing a book on data and technology proliferation and their implications for security. He is the author of Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror, published in June 2008 by The Penguin Press, and the editor of the 2009 Brookings book, Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform.”

From the Harvard University Law School website, Blum is labeled as “the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School, specializing in public Gabriella Blum Pictureinternational law, international negotiations, the law of armed conflict, and counterterrorism. She is also the Co-Director of the HLS-Brookings Project on Law and Security and a member of the Program on Negotiation Executive Board.  Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in the fall of 2005, Blum served for seven years as a Senior Legal Advisor in the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General’s Corps in the Israel Defense Forces, and for another year, as a Strategy Advisor to the Israeli National Security Council….Blum is the author of Islands of Agreement: Managing Enduring Armed Rivalries, (Harvard University Press, 2007), and of Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists (MIT Press, 2010) (co-authored with Philip Heymann and recipient of the Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize), as well as of journal articles in the fields of public international law and the law and morality of war.”

The book has hit the Amazon.com best-selling list with a furor.  It is #1 in Intelligence and Espionage, and #2 in both Terrorism and Globalization.  It will have to do more on some other best-seller lists in order for us to present this at the First Friday Book Synopsis, but since it was only released on March 10, 2015, we need to give it time.   The book certainly has a chance for us to feature it one month at our program.

What is this book about?  I found this interesting summary on KirkusReviews.com, stating that “the authors begin by articulating the many ways in which our fundamental connectedness, along with related advances in computing, biotechnology, 3-D printing, gene synthesis and other awe-inspiring technologies, could easily go awry or be turned to evil ends by lone sociopaths or wannabe jihadi: “Technologies that put destructive power traditionally confined to states in the hands of small groups and individuals have proliferated remarkably far,” write the authors. They initially focus on the destructive possibilities of technologies that have quickly become familiar, hypothesizing, for example, that ordinary people will soon be able to harass their rivals with tiny drones. In our transformative moment, “distance does not protect you…you are at once a figure of great power and great vulnerability.” Yet much of the authors’ discussion focuses on the changing nature of the state itself, weighing Hobbes’ concept of the “Leviathan” in the face of new and diverse threats. They first focus on how technology has “distributed” both vulnerability and the capacity to cause harm widely: “[W]e live in a fishbowl even as we exploit the fact that others live in a fishbowl too,” a principle embodied by recent “sextortion” cases. This inevitably forces a reconsideration of privacy and liberty on many levels, as revealed by events ranging from the Boston Marathon bombing investigation to hacker attacks on Israel and Iran. The authors raise fascinating questions but discuss them utilizing a formal legalistic framework. Ironically, they illuminate the coming age of “many-to-many” threats via a language few laypeople will find comprehensible.”

Wow!  That is eye-opening.  Did you notice the spider on the cover?  In Matt Welch‘s review of the book, he notes “Imagine a future in which a competitor assassinates you via a robotic spider.  That’s one way to see new technology’s potential.”   Read his full review by clicking here.

I wonder how many readers will remain open-minded to the grim possibility of a future like this.  Regardless, I don’t think we can ignore it.

“The Rule of Seventeen” – If you Want to Get Your Message Across & Accepted, Repeat, and Repeat and…..

Every semester, I go over the masterpiece I Have a Dream in great detail.  I give each student a copy of the text of Dr. King’s speech, and then together we circle key phrases all the way through to the end.  One obvioius characteristic of the speech just jumps out at every student – he kept repeating key phrases, over and over again.  “Now is the time…”; “I have a dream…”; “We are not satisfied…”; and a number of others.

There is a key truth underlying this practice.  We are slow to learn.  No, slow to learn isn’t strong enough.  We are slow to even pay attention.

Ed Savage, EdD, is Manager MID Training & Development at L-3 in Greenville, and a regular participant in the First Friday Book Synopsis.  He is full of wisdom and insight on a host of topics.  Recently, we were discussing just how difficult it is to get a message really heard throughout an organization.  (and, yes, within a family, and anywhere else messages matter).  He told me of “The Rule of Seventeen:  Communicating the Change Message Requires 17 Repetitions.”  Though aimed specifically at communicating a message of change throughout an organization, it applies to all communication challenges.  This rule states that one must repeat a message 17 times to get it through, fully accepted, and then acted upon by a listener.  When I heard it, it immediately made sense.

(And, I might add, after the 17th time, there will still need to be something of a refresher/reminder every now and then…  The communication task is never quite finished).

He first heard this from Naomi Sullivan of St Anthony’s, and then he refined it a bit.  And he has given me permission to share this on our blog.  Thanks, Ed.  This is valuable!

So, here it is – “The Rule of Seventeen.” Click on the image, print it out, and re-read it at least seventeen times yourself — and then, start repeating those key messages over and over and over and over ….again.

Click on image for full, printable view.

How Do We Treat Our Workers? – The Issue To Remember On This Anniversary Of Dr. King’s Death

Like magic, my trash is whisked away week after week.  It is picked up from behind our house, in the alley.  I have seen the men who pick it up only rarely, but I am glad to wave and nod my thanks.  They do wonderful work.  Hard, physical work.

In Memphis in 1968, if you were a sanitation worker and you were African American, your job was harder just because you were black, and you were absolutely treated unfairly. Black workers were paid less than white workers for doing the exact same work.  And, if the workers were sent home for bad weather (I write this the morning after some very devastating weather in the DFW area), the black workers were paid for two hours of work, but the white workers were paid for a full eight hour shift.  And, all the overtime hours went first to the white workers, even if an available black worker had worked for a much longer time at the same job.

And so, the black sanitation workers were on strike.  And it was getting ugly…

In other words, the work of Dr. King was far from over.

It still is.

Just this morning, I read about changes in China at factories like Foxcon, due to inhumane working conditions.  And, there are growing numbers of stories about the working conditions at “fulfillment centers,” like the ones owned by Amazon.  But in all of these current stories, as bad as conditions might be, there is not the unequal treatment based on race that there was in the 1960s and before.  (At least, not overtly).  Martin Luther King, Jr. made a difference with his life.

On this morning that we remember Dr. King’s death, let’s remember that he cared about the working conditions, and the opportunities, of all people.  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he wrote.

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968

And on the night before he died, he said these words, in Memphis, in support of the striking workers, (read the full text of the speech here), worth remembering again:

We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.

Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through…

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” – Words to Remember for this and every July 4

(Just a short list – we could add so many, many more)

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”
Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

• from the statement by eight Alabama clergymen that prompted Dr. King’s response:
We are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders.  We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized.  But we are not convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely).

• From Dr. King’s response:
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963 – from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, in response to the celergymen who had written an open letter of criticism (the Letter from Birmingham Jail)

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

What binds their stories together was the back-against-the-wall, reluctant yet hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were.  They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done.
They left. 
In the end, it could be said that the common denominator for leaving was the desire to be free, like the Declaration of Independence said, free to try out for most any job they pleased, play checkers with whomever they chose, sit where they wished on the streetcar, watch their children walk across a stage for the degree most of them didn’t have the chance to get.  They left to pursue some version of happiness, whether they achieved it or not.  It was a seemingly simple thing that the majority of Americans could take for granted but that the migrants and their forebears never had a right to in the world they had fled. 
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Martin Luther King and John Gardner on the Nobility of Work

It’s not often that I write an entire post based on part of one of Bob’s.  But this one prompted a lot of thinking that I feel the need to share…  It is in his interview with Chip Conley.  Here’s the excerpt:

Morris: How specifically has Maslow influenced your own thinking about JVH’s employees?

Conley: One of my breakthroughs when studying Maslow’s work was to see there are three key themes: Survival (Maslow’s two lower level needs: physiological and safety), Success (social/belonging and esteem) and Transformation (self-actualization).  When you apply these three themes to the three ways we connect with our work, you realize that someone with a Job tends to be purely focused on the comp package or Money (Survival).
Those who see their work as a Career are focused on Recognition on the Success level of the pyramid.  But, those who have a Calling (there are fewer which is why the pyramid is smaller at top) are Transformed by their work due to the sense of Meaning they get from the company they work for and/or the work that they do.  Money, Recognition, Meaning.  Job, Career, Calling.  That’s the progression up the pyramid.

I think this sense of calling at work/in work is a noble aspiration.  I don’t know how to manufacture it – it has to flow from within.  But I think we have learned some things about it through the years, like:  it does not matter what your job is, it is possible to have a sense of calling in any and every job.  And, this sense of calling is definitely not restricted to “information” jobs, or “leadership jobs.”  It is available, in fact, it is necessary, for any and all jobs.  In other words, all jobs can have (and should have) a sense of calling.

You know, we used to read quotes like this more often:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
John William Gardner

So, I’ve been thinking about Conley’s point.  I like it.  I think it is significant  But I also think that this “need” to view work as a calling is a universal need, regardless of the work at hand.  It is work itself – the dignity of work, the nobility of work – that is a calling.  And it should not be for the few who are at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.  (and I am a big fan of Maslow).

Or, to put it another way…  The progression up the pyramid has nothing to do with what one’s job is.  It has everything to do with one’s own view of the nobility of work, and this view comes from within, and is possible, and desirable, for any and every job.

Do you understand the “calling” aspect in your work?

A Set of PowerPoint Slides is NOT a “presentation” – a rant

It drives me crazy.

People refer to a set of PowerPoint slides as “a presentation.”  “Can you send me your presentation?” people will ask.

Are they crazy?!

A presentation is – you know – a person presenting a speech, a talk…, standing up or sitting down and opening his/her mouth and speaking.  You know – presenting!

PowerPoint slides projected on a screen are PRESENTATION AIDS!  They-are-not-the-presentation!

I teach Introduction to Speech Communication.  I refuse to teach PowerPoint in the “introduction” class.  Only if they “beg” me do I teach about PowerPoint.  And I teach my students this – control the eye contact of the audience, and never define the PowerPoint slides as the presentation – they are PRESENTATION AIDS! Why?   Because, after you have thoroughly researched, fully prepared, you have to emphasize the voice, facial expressions, tone, — you know, YOU!

Dr. King in Washington - not one single PowerPoint slide

Quick, what do the following “presenters,”  John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Jordan, Ronald Reagan, have in common?  They never used PowerPoint in their “presentations.”

THEY DELIVERED THEIR PRESENTATIONS! You know, their voice, their words, their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their gestures – these made up their presentations.  No, they could not e-mail their presentations to anyone.  They could not send anyone their presentations.  They had to show up and deliver their presentations.

Yes, their presentations show up on youtube.  But even that is not the same.  It captures some of what happened – but not all.  I’ve heard a few great presentations in person.  I watched Bill Clinton at his best in a huge crowd in Fort Worth, Texas in 1996.  I stood on the second row.  Every thing he did – eye contact, emotion, personality – it was an education!  And not one PowerPoint slide during the entire presentation!

Now, I’m not a complete idiot.  (well – I might be – but that’s another discussion).  Of course, well-made presentation aids can be very effective.  But take a look at any of the presentations at the great TED site.  Not once do they just put up the slides.  The slides are visual AIDS.  On the TED site, they upload the speaking, by the persons presenting, to capture as much of each presentation as possible.

I went to Mickey Mantle’s funeral here in Dallas (it was open to the public).  Delivering the main address was Bob Costas.  It was a masterpiece – I mean, a real masterpiece.  It may have been the best presentation I ever heard.  It was his voice, his face, his gestures.  Not one PowerPoint slide!

He delivered his presentation.  No, he cannot e-mail it to you!

Okay – rant finished.