Monday, January 18, 2021

Did Martin Luther King Learn from the Ancestors?

Presentation: You Are A Pioneer, a3Genealogy

The Invisible Staircase 
In Jan 2011 I began my College and University circuit as a speaker. I have always, since 1984 spoken as a corporate speaker, but this was new. The issue was I was being asked to speak at private schools, university business schools, to entrepreneurs, women organizations, and marketing and executive departments of corporations. These invitations extended to celebration events that honored Martin Luther King. With these events, I was being asked to meld genealogy while inspiring future graduates or corporate execs. Great! That posed an ideal conundrum! I can plop genealogy and our ancestors into any conversation seamlessly. Challenge accepted!

Stephens College, Columbia, MO. 2014

Be A Pioneer
Let it be known that as an ex-executive in corporate America, my interest in Martin Luther King was not so much his “I Had A Dream” speech, but was engulfed on his use of the “Invisible Staircase.” It is here that I stress a basic mantra: the problem is people confuse what is hard with what is impossible. I can’t count the times I have had to bat down perceived obstacles, to remind the listener it really is possible to change your "business from routine" as usual to "NEW."  Our ancestors did it! "Be a Pioneer," I would say.

Presentation: You Are A Pioneer, a3Genealogy

The Invisible Staircase MLK Quote?

Presentation: The Invisible Staircase, a3Genealogy

When asked to speak for MLK Day or Black History month, or even to share a motivational speech, I usually turn to the MLK quote: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” It is from the resistance for change that The Invisible Staircase: Know Thyself” presentation was created. Maybe if we make it personal, peek at our ancestor’s invisible staircase that we may draw courage. 

What does this have to do with genealogy? Oh, so much! Our paths today share the same struggles, fears and triumphs of our ancestors.  Through every struggle it is through that “first step” without the assurance of the results that we move the needle while experiencing our life, our businesses, our new endeavors take shape.  

And, yes, I purposely weave The Invisible Staircase: Know Thyself presentation with examples of Martin Luther King’s quotes and the courage of our ancestors. 

  • Did they willingly leave family and friends behind in a country across great waters?
  • Did your ancestor leave the cotton fields to explore the industrial northeast or Midwest?
  • Did your ancestor choose to fight for a country in hopes for freedom? Or, naturalization? Or, to defend a country that questioned their ability of constitutional rights, or the legality of their right to citizenship?
  • Did your ancestors follow a path to settle unexplored lands in the west of a vast country?

The list is endless.  My own ancestors, sold their land in North Carolina and Tennessee to settle in the middle of Kansas on unimproved lands.  A new start, leaving family and friends behind in hopes of the American Dream. They traveled with a group of 52 members of their extended family. But, the uncertainty of what western Kansas would offer them in the 1880’s? This had to be a leap of faith…just take the first step - MLK would say decades later.  I mean, most Kansas don’t know where Comanche and Harper counties lie even now! 

Ancestors Who Worked Outside of the Box
This is the working outside of the box theory in Corporate America. It is the spirit of the USA entrepreneur; the newly settled immigrant; the uncomfortable change of a political party every four or eight years; the acceptance of a new job, a new location, or evaluating if “old comforts” still serve their purpose.

Regardless of the circumstance, like our ancestors, we must walk boldly toward new endeavors, or through uninvited experiences. And, Martin Luther King gave us the first step in the quote itself: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” 

Like our ancestors, we must forge along through the steps of a winding staircase before us.  For me it’s simple. Where faith begins, the staircase holds at least the following components:

Presentation: The Invisible Staircase, a3Genealogy

Remembering Martin Luther King my way, is how seven years later from my first The Invisible Staircase presentation, that I wish to share his teachings. 

Happy Birthday, and Thanks Dr. Martin Luther King! 

Be Historically Correct  

Kathleen Brandt

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