Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Power of a Big Dream

On a recent family visit to my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, I took my daughters by the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr.

I was seven years old when King was struck down. I have gone by the Lorraine numerous times over the years to remember King and his amazing legacy. Next week we will celebrate his memory with a holiday in his honor.

Aristotle said, “Hope is a waking dream.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was certainly a man whose dream awakened a nation and helped right the course of our history. Though taken from us way too early, we can still learn lessons from him when we challenge ourselves to live big dreams.

Big dreams inspire us to greater causes. On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands descended on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to hear King deliver his famous I Have a Dream speech. In it he said, “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

King was a crusader for equality of rights, not just for black people but for all races. His dream was for a cause greater than himself in which he was relentless in pursuing. How about you? What is your dream and is it for a cause greater than self?

In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M. Webber asks a rather interesting question. “Would you rather have a tepid success with something that doesn’t matter or a brilliant failure with something that does?” You see, a big dream will set you on a course of action and for a cause that is greater than you. The size of your dream will determine the sphere of your influence. The greater your influence the greater the impact you will have.

Big dreams inspire us to greater challenges. In the speech King continued, “As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back… I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells…You have been veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

While tempted to bask in the glory of a dream achieved, we must remember that dreams are achieved through sacrifice and hard work. Dreams have a tendency to die not because the dream is unworthy, but because the dreamer gave up too soon. Anatole France said, “To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.” King not only dreamed big but he acted on it. Your dream becomes a reality when your heart grows legs and you take the first steps toward achieving it.

Big dreams inspire us with greater courage. King understood the necessity of his dream. He said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Many people look at King’s speech that day and remember his powerful oratory skills, and rightfully so. But even more powerful than his delivery was the power of his words. As he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that August day, King didn’t just deliver a good speech, he delivered courage and inspiration. He emboldened people to not just dream, but to believe that they could be the ones to go forth and make it a reality.

Big dreams have a way of stretching us. John F. Kennedy said, “We need men who can dream of things that never were.” Big dreams should not just elevate our imaginations but our hearts to causes greater than ourselves, empower us to face the challenges that will come, and give us the courage to overcome them.

What is your dream?

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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