On what would be the 87th birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., today, I declare that like his dream so many years ago, I have a dream too: that all men and women find their voices and speak up – in their personal, professional, and philanthropic lives.
We need to tell people who we are, how we feel, what we want, and what we care about. We as human beings are not mind readers. We don’t know what one another is really thinking, and we need to stop expecting others to guess.
Expressing yourself is a skill we are encouraged to develop as infants when parents and other adults encourage us to speak up when they ask us to “use your words.” Then sometime later on in our lives, many of us are asked to stop speaking up, are told we are speaking too loudly or at an inappropriate time, or are told not to ask and not to tell.
In this day and age when speaking up can be done in so many forms – in person (the best kind!), in written forms, digitally on the web and others , I see too many people in our society holding back, afraid to speak up about what they want and what matters to them.
Somewhere along their journeys, they forgot that the person who needs to give them permission to speak up is themselves. No one else.
There are some corporate companies today who I tip my hat to that encourage employees, customers, vendors and shareholders to speak up, just like when we were kids. They ask us to tell them what they are doing well and what they could do better. Companies such as Whole Food Markets, PepsiCo, Glaxo SmithKline, GM, Deloitte and others.
In our homes, in our schools, in our professional workplaces, we need to speak up and voice our wants and needs. We can make the world a better place, starting in our own individual worlds. It all starts when we garner the courage to open our mouths and speak up to the people who we want to tell most what our innermost desires are, what our ideas for improvement or something different are, and what we care about.
In our communities, we can make a great difference by speaking up about the things we see that we feel passionate, compassionate and curious about. We can put up and build homes for those who lost theirs as a result of natural disasters, fires or other causes. We can support families struck with illnesses that compromise their ability to survive. We can support local initiatives, build buildings and parks, voice our opposition to things we don’t like or approve of, and lots of other things.
But this single skill set of speaking up eludes so many of us, and it occurred to me that we needed to bring this capability back to the forefront of our society.
It is essential as we continue to grow and expand as a global community that each one of us understand that we have been given the ability to speak our minds, ask for what we want, and express ourselves freely as human beings.
It is our time.
And I have a dream that each of us as individuals can do it. We can speak up. The time is now.
Thank you, Dr. King. I agree with what James Taylor sings about in his song about Dr. King:
“We are bound together by the task that lies before us,
and the road that lies ahead of us.”
Let’s join hands and take the steps needed to really see the world become a global community where each of us can speak up without the fear of retaliation – in our backyards and homes, in our places of business, and everywhere else. Every little step will get us that much closer.
I hope you’ll join me – and speak up!
For more about speaking up, watch this video of our founder, Jennifer S. Wilkov, talk about why it is so important to speak up and the impact you can make when you do.
Go to http://www.SpeakUpWomen.com to learn more and to register to attend the Speak Up Women Conference at the United Nations on March 5th, 2016.