“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. – quote from a speech delivered in Philadelphia, October 26, 1967.
On Monday, January 15th, we will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a holiday established by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to honor the icon of the civil rights movement in America. From the mid 50’s until his assassination in 1968 at the age of 39, King exhibited peaceful strength and resolve during a very tumultuous time in our country. While many recognize excerpts from his most famous speeches, listed below are some lesser known facts about Mr. King and his extraordinary life:
Did you know?
- Martin was Michael? He was born Michael King, Jr. but his father legally changed his own name and Michael Jr’s name after a trip to Germany and in honor of the famous theologian Martin Luther.
- 10-year-old Martin sang in his father’s choir at the premiere of “Gone With The Wind” in 1939.
- King entered Morehouse College at the very young age of 15 and ultimately received a PhD in 1955 from Boston University.
- Although remembered as an amazing public speaker and speech writer, King got a C in a public speaking course during his first year in seminary.
- During his life and career, King suffered many adversities and battles. He was arrested over 30 times, his house was bombed, and he survived an attempted assassination in 1958.
- King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968 while smoking a cigarette on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. King had worked diligently to keep his smoking habit from his children and the general public. The story is told that one of his closest advisors even hid the habit after his death by removing the cigarette butt and a pack of cigarettes from King’s pocket before the ambulance arrived to transport him to the hospital.
- Today over 700 streets are named in his honor along with many buildings, schools and monuments.
Regardless of philosophical, political or religious beliefs, we should agree that Martin Luther King, Jr’s life and work represented the best of what America can be. We can all be challenged to “be the best of whatever you are”.