My Speech Today–You Would Have Known It

Today I will be presenting at the downtown Indianapolis Kiwanis Club. The luncheon’s topic is Martin Luther King, Jr. My part of it will be one of my most popular subjects, the last full day of King’s life. I have entitled the talk with purposeful irony—“A Day of Meetings.”

King participated in—endured, might be a better word—four different meetings on April 3, 1968. As far as he was concerned it was just a day. More specifically, it was another long , somewhat discouraging day, like a lot of others he’d lived in the past couple of years.

We tend to think of King as the embodiment of a few audio or video clips from a speech or a march. They were part of his life, to be sure, but they were only that—just a part. Much of the rest of the time he engaged in the more slogging, unremarkable aspects of leadership. There were no cameras, no crowds, no fame or visibility.

His last day of life was a day of meetings. And on that day he had to do the things that were vital to leadership but which might not get celebrated or memorialized by history (with one mysterious exception, his Mountaintop remarks). That type of reality might sound familiar to quite a few of us.