The Man Behind the Dream

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we reflect on the great works of a man who sought to teach us about equality and justice. One of the most powerful things about Dr. King’s work is the way in which he humanized so many things, urging each of us as individuals to reflect on what we can do to bring equality to our world.

We’re all pretty familiar with the most iconic aspects of Dr. King’s activism, his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and even his writings from a night spent behind bars, “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Others have read the complete library of Dr. King’s work and created lists of his brilliant, yet lesser-known, quotes. I highly recommend reading them today to learn something new about this great man’s work.

But when you’re done with that ….let him tell you a joke.

That’s right – Baptist preacher and great mind of the 20th century, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has a pretty great sense of comedic timing. Here he is on the Tonight Show in 1968, telling a story about a flight with mechanical difficulties:


It’s no surprise that he can spin a good joke. Public speaking is, after all, about capturing your audience’s attention, but it’s a side of the man so rarely seen. Those who were close to him in his life say that he was known, especially as a young man, as someone with a great sense of humor. His wise-cracking college ways matured a bit as he aged, turning him into the brilliant orator we all know today.

Humor, in the face of fear and injustice, can be a powerful tool. Even those who appeared eternally patient and wise to us, in their lives, experienced the same day to day struggles as the rest of us – paying bills, raising children, and maintaining relationships – all while they were changing the world. The great Indian thinker and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi once said that a sense of humor was what kept him from the darkest parts of his mind and the saddest actions imaginable.

If nothing else, let Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sense of humor remind you that the things that make you smile give you strength as you try and change your corner of the world – no matter how big or small that may be.

Happy Monday,