I am most humbled and appreciative to be invited to present a keynote program at the 2018 South Central Conference of York Rite Masons. The presentation will be on Friday morning, September 21, and is entitled “York Rite Masonry as a Customer Service Experience.”
The presentation draws upon the principles from our Creative Communication Network programs in Customer Service, facilitated by Randy Mayeux. We offer two levels of training. One is basic, designed for new or inexperienced employees. The other is advanced, entitled “Preeminent Customer Service,” designed for more established employees and work units. We have taught this for many companies, including TXU Energy, Dr Pepper/Snapple Group, Lucent Technologies, Hilton Hotels, and others.
This is my fourth time to present at this conference, to be held at the Love Field Hilton Doubletree hotel in Dallas.
I have again asked R:I: Reese L. Harrison, Jr., PGM, PGHP, to introduce me, who, if tradition prevails, should at that time, be the reigning Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Most Illustrious Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Texas.
If you watched NBC’s program narrated by Bette White on Sunday, September 1 about the 30 funniest moments in television history, you saw that the “I Love Lucy” chocolate factory candy scene was # 1.
You can watch the scene by clicking here.
Yes, that is funny. I have to admit to you that I didn’t think most of the other 29 scenes on the show were very funny. There were two exceptions – one was from the “Dick Van Dyke Show” at an auction, and another from “All in the Family,” where Edith stuffs a phone message in her bra. I guess I just didn’t choose to use my time in the ’70’s and ’80’s watching sitcoms. And, I still don’t today.
Back to Lucy. The literature on Lucille Ball is not universally favorable. While the biographies portray her as talented and driven, we can conclude that she was a flawed person. (Of course, who isn’t?) She doesn’t top Marilyn Monroe in the quantity of biographies written about a famous person, but she certainly had plenty. Click here for a sampling from Amazon.com. She was particularly “egged” in the tabloids when she disapproved of Patty Duke, at age 23, dating her son, Desi Arnaz, Jr., at age 17. You can read a quick tracking of her life by clicking here. Regardless of what people have written, there is no question that she brought great entertainment to millions of Americans for many years.
Did you watch that show on NBC? Do you have a favorite comedy scene? Let’s talk about it really soon.
I am frequently asked what I think was the greatest speech of all time. I receive these questions since I coach professional presenters in the marketplace, as well as teach business presentations as part of the MBA program in the College of Business at the University of Dallas. I think that many people like to benchmark features of their own presentations against famous speeches that they are familiar with.
Since we recently passed the 50th anniversary of the great “I Have a Dream” speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., you have likely seen several editorials about the context, the speaker, and the speech. I will not repeat any of these here as they are readily available for you. There is no question in my mind that it is one of the greatest of all time, but it is not THE greatest.
That honor goes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, gave the most inclusive presentation I have ever seen. That evening, he put it all together. There is no single presentation that I have seen which embodies all of the elements of successful speechmaking this well. No matter what you wish to critique – projection, tone, eye contact, posture, gestures, language, verbal and vocal variety, storytelling, and on, and on, and on….this speech is a model. I am especially impressed when I see how he touches all elements of his audience – young and old, white and black, rich and poor, able and disabled, male and female, and any other demographic classification that you want to examine. I especially encourage you to watch Part 7 by clicking here. He would be nominated for the presidency of the United States the next evening. Had he been elected, I think he would have been powerful with foreign leaders, but would have had great difficulty passing legislation through his own bodies of congress.
Two other items about this speech stand out to me. First, he has energy. Even 75 minutes from the beginning, Jackson has the same enthusiasm he started with. Second, he puts elements from the African-American pulpit into a political speech very successfully. As you watch Part 7, note features such as repetition, parallelism, cadence, etc., which you would see any Sunday in this type of church.
So, for what it is worth, here is my list of the top five American speeches of all time, with links to a YouTube version of the speech where available:
1. Rev. Jesse Jackson – 1988 Democratic National Convention
2. President Ronald Reagan – Challenger Explosion Speech – January 28, 1986 – in just 4:40, he settles down the country, gives hope to children who watched the broadcast, praises NASA, and restores faith in the United States space program.
3. Robert F. Kennedy Announces Death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – April 4, 1968 – en route to a political campaign stop in Indianapolis, RFK receives word of the King assassination, and speaks from the heart in an attempt to unify the country which could experience significant polarization; he holds an envelope with scribbled notes that he barely refers to.
4. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream” – August 28, 1963 – an electrifying, sincere, and emotional presentation filled with striking metaphors and allegories that marks a transition in civil rights
5. Jim Valvano – ESPY “Don’t Ever Give Up” – March 3, 1993 – filled with terminal cancer, the famous NC State basketball coach stirs the crowd with hope, passion, and humor
You may ask where are these American speeches? Yes, they are great, and likely in a “top 20,” but….
JFK inaugural address – January 20, 1961 – upbeat and enthusiastic, but disorganized, and one famous line does not make an entire speech famous
Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg Address – November 19, 1863 – we all memorized it, but our effort is why we probably think it is great
Richard Nixon “Checkers” Speech – September 23, 1952 – the first of many defiant and denial attempts by an elusive liar
Barbara Jordan addresses Democratic National Convention – July 12, 1976 – a remarkable address by a woman of color who left us way too soon, but she was the star, not the speech
What do you think? Do you have other favorites? Let’s talk about it really soon!
One reason that we stop and think about the great causes on Martin Luther King Day is that no one has replaced him. It was his voice that was so strong, and his message could not be ignored. There is no other Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so we return to his words so often – especially on this day.
In his clear voice, he reminded us of the dangers, the wrongs, the challenges that faced us. He did so with great passion, and with great depth and substance.
It is almost impossible to single out a quote or two. There are so many. And, yes, he repeated key phrases, in different places. But for this Martin Luther King Day, let me point out two of his themes. One, his attention to the great injustice of poverty. The other, the reminder that there is great dignity in honest, physical work.
#1 – Regarding poverty. These excerpts come from his Nobel Lecture, delivered on December 11, 1964, after receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. (You can read the full Lecture here).
In a sense the poverty of the poor in America is more frustrating than the poverty of Africa and Asia. The misery of the poor in Africa and Asia is shared misery, a fact of life for the vast majority; they are all poor together as a result of years of exploitation and underdevelopment. In sad contrast, the poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity. Glistening towers of glass and steel easily seen from their slum dwellings spring up almost overnight. Jet liners speed over their ghettoes at 600 miles an hour; satellites streak through outer space and reveal details of the moon. President Johnson, in his State of the Union Message1, emphasized this contradiction when he heralded the United States’ “highest standard of living in the world”, and deplored that it was accompanied by “dislocation; loss of jobs, and the specter of poverty in the midst of plenty.”
In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brothers’ keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne interpreted this truth in graphic terms when he affirmed:
No man is an Iland, intire of its selfe:
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine:
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were:
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde:
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls:
it tolls for thee.
Notice again these lines:
In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich.
There is a lot of discussion these days about the top 1%, and then the rest of us. But those at the “bottom” literally suffer “the agony of the poor.” And, at the very least, there shoud be genuine compassion from all of us, regardless of where we fall in the “percentages,” for this agony – for these real people, who suffer genuine difficulty.
#2 – Regarding the dignity of genuine, hard work.
There are some who argue that our society is inviting laziness, “dependence” on programs of one kind or another. Personally, I think this is an incorrect and misplaced “reading” of the culture… But Dr. King would never have stood for “handouts” to replace hard work. Just last night, the Golden Globe for best supporting actress in a film went to Octavia Spencer who played a maid in the Civil Rights era movie “The Help.” Spencer quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her acceptance:
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.”
(Read more about her acceptance speech here).
The line that best captures this was delivered by Dr. King in Jamaica in 1965:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Care about, and help the poor. Do whatever work you have to do very well, for there is great dignity and importance in all labor that uplifts humanity.
In his speech in Jamaica, Dr. King said:
“The time is always right to do right.”
Yes, it is. It is always the time to do right…
These are reminders for us all on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“Until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”
Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Each semester, I handout copies of the full text of I Have a Dream, the great speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. I take a fresh copy myself, and I have us work through the speech, circling each phrase that he repeats. The list is overwhelming: “now is the time” “100 years later,” “let freedom ring,” “all of God’s children,” “I have a dream,” “one day.” Over and over and over again, he hammers home these key phrases. This is part of the reason why the speech is burned so deeply into our collective memory.
We all need to take a lesson from Dr. King – especially at work.
We are so very busy, in our lives, and in our brains. At work, we always have the incident/task/crisis of the moment demanding our attention. So, if we want to focus on what is important in the big picture/over the long haul, it has to be front of mind, and put back in front of mind, time and time and time and time again.
In other words, one major job of a leader is to repeat what is important over and over and over and over again. “until they mock you.” There is no alternative to this.
Here’s how Mark Aesch, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) put it, in his book Driving Excellence: Transform your Organization’s Culture – and Achieve Revolutionary Results:
With an issue this significant, putting it in front of any group of people once is not going to get it done.
You need to come back, time and again, to make people focus on the issue’s importance.
Everyone – bus operators, radio controllers, customer service personnel, up to and including the vice presidents – is nudged to tie our strategies to the most basic task they happen to be performing minute to minute.
How are you doing? Are you repeating the key elements of your mission and your strategy over and over again to your people?
Are they mocking you yet? If they are not, you’ve got some more repeating to do.
(note; I write on this blog about business topics, business books – and a few other subjects. I also teach Speech. This article refers to a section of what some call the greatest speech delivered in the United States in the 20th Century).
Today is Martin Luther King Day. I have read his words, watched him on video, read biographies. He was a remarkable man – a remarkable leader.
In this year, on this day, maybe it would be good to remember his clarion call for non-violence.
He had reason to demand change. He was the Pastor of the church where Rosa Parks was a member. Her “crime” was technically a crime, but a crime based on an unjust law. Dr. King would later write:
I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail – read the full text of the letter here).
And he knew that to gain freedom, to gain equality and justice, he had to “demand it.”
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. (Again, from the Letter from Birmingham Jail).
But, how to demand it? This is where Dr. King’s greatness is seen. He believed in demanding it/taking it without violence. His friends had been beaten. Some had been killed. (many, over the decades). Freedom Riders had had their heads bashed in. (Here’s one example: just read the Wikipedia article about Congressman John Lewis, regarding his early activist years. For a gripping photograph of John Lewis, with bandages on the back of his head after being beaten by the KKK, in 1961, go to this Slate.com Magnum Photos slide show — look at picture #6. The photo is from a press conference, and the future Congressman Lewis is seated next to Dr. King).
But Dr. King was certain that to respond to violence with violence was not the answer. Here are words from his greatest speech, I Have a Dream, delivered at The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963 (read the full speech here):
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
Today, in relative comfort, four decades removed from the turmoil of that era, we forget that the approach of non-violence was not guaranteed to “win” the day. There were other voices, recommending other paths — like Malcolm X, in a speech delivered some eight months after Dr. King’s, on April 3, 1964: The Ballot or the Bullet (read the full speech here):
The question tonight, as I understand it, is “The Negro Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here?” or What Next?” In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet.
If we don’t do something real soon, I think you’ll have to agree that we’re going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It’s one or the other in 1964. It isn’t that time is running out – time has run out!
There’s new strategy coming in. It’ll be Molotov cocktails this month, hand grenades next month, and something else next month. It’ll be ballots, or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty, or it will be death. The only difference about this kind of death — it’ll be reciprocal.
The black nationalists aren’t going to wait. Lyndon B. Johnson is the head of the Democratic Party. If he’s for civil rights, let him go into the Senate next week and declare himself. Let him go in there right now and declare himself. Let him go in there and denounce the Southern branch of his party. Let him go in there right now and take a moral stand — right now, not later. Tell him, don’t wait until election time. If he waits too long, brothers and sisters, he will be responsible for letting a condition develop in this country which will create a climate that will bring seeds up out of the ground with vegetation on the end of them looking like something these people never dreamed of. In 1964, it’s the ballot or the bullet.
The contrast is so stark. And the judgement of history is correct. Dr. King’s speech was the greatest delivered in the era – not the one by Malcom X. Why? Because, ultimately, the path of non-violence is the better path.
This is the message of Dr. King. But his was not a soft message. He had studied Gandhi. He believed that the path of non-violence was the path that had the greatest possibility of success. Dr. King believed that the path of violence was both wrong, but also a losing path.
On Martin Luther King Day, let’s remember the turmoil of his era, the path he beckoned us toward, and the truth that the struggle for justice – justice for all – is ongoing, for us and our children and our grandchildren, and generations to come. And let’s remember his message: that freedom must be demanded, but never with acts of violence.