The Importance of Service to Others: Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream

The late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his dream at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963. This was 18 years before I was born. In fact, my father didn’t even live in this country until October of 1965, which just so happens to be the heart of the civil rights movement. Earlier this month, I used my modern version of an encyclopedia to pull up YouTube and rewatch the “I Have a Dream” speech for the 100th time.

Every time I listen to Dr. King’s powerful words, I find new insights and meaning. This time, my goal was to identify correlations with our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work at BerganKDV. His dream spoke of equality and coming together through commonality versus what is the optical apparent. In my opinion, this speech planted the seed of service to others beyond our differences that we are still working on to this day.

My dad often tells me stories about what it was like to come to America at age 19 with the dream of attending a prestigious university. During high school, he lived with a family that took him in as their own and helped him navigate the cultural nuances and fast-paced way of life in America. Dad excelled in his studies during his one year of high school simply due to his ability to outwork everyone else. It is that work ethic and flawless academic record that got him accepted into Yale University in 1966.

Sailu and his father

Ironically, it was that year that Yale accepted their first female freshman class, which is a clear sign of the progress that was being made in the country. As Dad adjusted to college life, he was helped along the way by many. He found a community with three other foreign-born classmates who had similar stories of coming to a new land and being supported by other American families. These four young men were inseparable. They all played on the varsity soccer team, studied together, and navigated through New Haven with the unconditional support of each other.

This is an easy example of selfless service to others; exactly what Dr. King often references throughout The Civil Rights movement. He knew that to make the dream possible, we must intentionally help each other to get there. Equality gave my father a chance of a lifetime, but that alone wouldn’t have done it. The service and support of his friends and host families allowed him to succeed in a very equitable way and achieve his dream.

Fast forward to now, as we are on the heels of one of the most unique and challenging events in modern history. Dr. King’s most important question is, “What are you doing for others?” The effects of 2020 impacted everyone in a personal way. It changed how we go about our daily lives and pushed us to do more by committing to serving others no matter how big or small, which is the key to creating a respectable sense of equality.

The impact one can make by opening their heart and mind to serve is astounding, and often, just as my dad learned, it’s the little acts of service that add up the most. I love DEI work at BerganKDV because I’m blessed to serve our team, clients, and communities in ways that are unique to them.  Service to others equals equity! It is about meeting an individual or an organization where they are at and using our expertise to help them develop theirs. 

In the same breath, we should encourage people to help others in the same fashion.  Service to others may not always be easy, but it can be creative, authentic and lead to real change.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, how do you plan to serve? You may consider hosting someone from a foreign country, volunteering as a youth sports coach or at your favorite nonprofit; no matter the size of your service, you will impact the people you help while leading by example. Through it all, I challenge everyone to keep going, as Dr. King would encourage us to do.

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to help. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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