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Martin Luther King, Jr., on Leadership: Inspiration and Wisdom for Challenging Times Paperback – January 15, 2000
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Using the Civil Rights struggle as his historical perspective, the author has created a detailed and absorbing chronicle of Martin Luther King's leadership during the most tumultuous period in America's recent past.
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For this book, he weaves through with a leadership lesson in each chapter - and generally places the lesson tied directly to something King did - trying to stay close to chronological order. He also supplies us with key quotes from King at the beginning and end of each chapter - for a quick summary and overview.
Phillips sets the context in which King operated. This is huge! I don't believe you can't fully understand without immersing in the history, the mindset, the goings on of the time. Phillips doesn't assume the reader is familiar with King. He doesn't assume the reader knows the circumstances of King's time. Phillips pulls the reader in; explaining the leadership trait King embodied; he explains what in King's past helped him to get here. He explains the historical context of what the culture was like, what current events caused the situation, what players were involved and a little on their mindset and background. He points out how even a great man like King made mistakes, how we evaluated his successes and failures, and how he grew and improved throughout.
King's life was short and was lived mainly before I was born - he died at age 39 - and had learned more and accomplished more than many that lived to be twice his age. Being a student of leadership, but someone who knew very little about King, I chose this book to learn about both. It inspired me to read more about King. I am amazed at how he put his principles before even fear of criticism, family threats, and even death. I think the reader will learn a lot about King, his struggles, his faith, his life, his goals, and especially his leadership style. Yet, for burgeoning leaders, it is very insightful. It will make someone think about whether they truly want to be a leader and what sacrifices they are willing to make.
Phillips makes this an easy read - but not an easy one to just race through without reflection.
After reading this book I wrote the following reflection on MLK's life and legacy. This reflection was shaped by Phillips' work but it is not a review or sample of Phillip.
Martin Luther King, Jr. saw himself as a prophet of his day and like the prophets in the Bible he guided his nation’s moral compass to make sure that it pointed true, right, and straight. What else should we have expected from someone that was named after the father of reformation, Martin Luther.
MLK was a second generation preacher and when he received his call to ministry it was a call to challenge the status quo and permanently change the course of our history. He often quoted the prophets, probably because he identified with them, and like the prophets he held the nation accountable. He identified with their message and from a Birmingham Jail he wrote a letter to white ministers who criticized his work and stated, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.”
When he delivered his most remarkable speech, “I have a Dream” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, he quoted the prophet Isaiah and Amos. In fact, the key verse of Amos’s oracle was King’s primary proof text. Citing Amos, King preached, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
MLK did not just identify with the prophets of old, he also worked with the prophets of his day. Including Billy Graham. MLK spoke and prayed at Billy Graham’s crusades. Furthermore, Graham recounts a conversation where King said, you fight from the stadiums and I’ll fight from the streets.”
He also identified with Paul who wrote to the Corinthian’s listing all the torture and violence he has received as a result of his message. King probably had Paul’s words in mind when he wrote, “Due to my involvement in the struggle for the freedom of my people, I have known very few quiet days in the last few years. I have been arrested five times and put in Alabama jails. My home has been bombed twice. A day seldom passes that my family and I are not the recipients of threats of death. I have been the victim of a near-fatal stabbing.” We know that on April 4, 1968 at a motel in Memphis, TN the assassin’s bullet took his life and Martin Luther King Jr. entered the ranks of those called martyrs who gave their life to make the world a better place. As king was entered into eternal rest his life became synonymous with the lives of Lincoln, Ghandi, and Kennedy. King often urged his followers to “Meditate on the teachings and life of Jesus”, and I am certain that on the day King entered the gates of heaven he heard the words of Jesus saying, “Well Done! My good and faithful servant”.
"True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power, as Niebuhr contends. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflictor of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart." - "The Autobiography Of Martin Luther King, Jr." Edited by Clayborne Carson, Pg. 26