“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!” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., April 3, 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tenn.
The funny thing is that I found this quote this morning on Mike Lombardi's football blog. Lombardi likes to think and write about leadership. In today's blog, Lombardi focuses on how MLK had become pretty unpopular after his 1967 stand against Vietnam--a position that was ahead of the rest of the population. By the time of his death, MLK had been joined by the majority of Americans after the Tet offensive. And the idea that a civil rights activist should not take a position on a foreign war died with MLK. Obviously, the issues were tied given the unequal way the draft played out and the higher rate of casualties faced by minorities and the poor.
True leadership is taking a stance that is ahead of its time--being willing to be ostracized for taking an unpopular position because it is the right position.