“We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. … And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the “Drum Major Instinct Speech“, February 4, 1968.
I have a soft spot for ambition, especially among young people who for all intents and purposes should not have any. In my experience I have found an overwhelming tendency in society towards giving up on young people from disparate situations: youth in “the hood”, children who are hungry, families without health insurance, and neighborhoods with bad schools all suffer a kind of common neglect. We’re coming out of a gilded age when money ruled the day. Well, it still does. But this neglect of everyday needs is starting to affect more and more people, and the suffering once confined to the few is becoming widespread. Jobs are being lost right now. Homes are being taken right now. Families are being broken apart, neighborhoods are being decimated, and social networks are being obliterated.
There are young people out there right now who are challenging this reality. Some are attempting to combat the marketplace by joining it as entreprenuers; some are fighting it by becoming social change agents. Either way, I want to identify them and call their works forward, and challenge all adults to do the same. We must give these drum majors the platforms they need to be heard, and support them as best we can. Our only hope are young people. Our only hope.
Rev. Dr. King, I owe you a debt of gratitude, conscience, and hope. For all times I work in rememberance of your labor.
R.I.P. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968.