By Lauren | August 28, 2013
Fifty years ago today, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the most famous speeches in history. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King galvanized an audience of almost a quarter of a million people with his dream of a just and united America. Fifty years later, his words remain as important and relevant, his dream as beautiful and poignant, as they were then.
I wonder, though, if we haven’t become too cynical as a society to really appreciate the value of a dream. Self-reliance has always been an important element of our national character, but I sometimes think we’ve gone so far toward requiring everyone to be completely self-sufficient that we’ve lost sight of the simple fact that people do better together than they do alone. For that matter, we’ve become so certain that the sole purpose of business is to raise money that I often think we’ve forgotten that the primary purposes of business include first, providing trustworthy goods and services to customers and, second, giving paid employment to qualified workers, allowing them to live with dignity and self-respect. Yes, businesses should make reasonable profits, but not at the expense of their workers, their clientele or their communities.
Dr. King had a dream, and so do I. My dream is that, someday soon, American companies will wake up to the fact that they’ll be more successful if their customers can safely depend on them. They’ll understand that honesty, transparency and reliability are better drivers of lasting success than quarterly profitability. They’ll acknowledge that their employees are more than just easily replaced “human resources,” and that efficiency and profitability need to be balanced against fairness and human dignity. They’ll recognize that the Earth’s resources, while bountiful, aren’t infinite, and redesign their business models to be more ecologically responsible. They’ll respect the idea that power comes with responsibility, and that the privilege of doing business in a community should be earned by good corporate citizenship and contribution to the greater good. Finally, it’s my deepest dream that American business will put aside the self-seeking avarice that has done so much damage to people around the world, recognizng that greed isn’t good and that we profit best when no one is excluded from the American dream.
Dream on, America – dream on.