Live Your Why

As we approach the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, it seems we should both honor Rev. King and learn from that speech. 

I can think of no better way to accomplish both goals than to liberally borrow from Simon Sinek’s fantastic blog post about that speech and the importance of living your “why.”

On August 28, 1963, 250,000 people from across the country descended on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The organizers didn’t send out 250,000 invitations and there was no Web site to check the date. How did they get a quarter of a million people to show up on the right day at the right time?

Dr. King was not the only person alive during that time who knew what had to change to bring about civil rights in America. He had many ideas about what needed to happen, but so did others. And not all of his ideas were good. He was not a perfect man; he had his complexities.

When I first watched Simon’s TED Talk about the importance of why, I knew immediately I had found the man who understands the Tea Party.  We are different from so many conservative “movements” because of our why.  Though not everyone has articulated that why, we all share it.

But Dr. King was absolute in his conviction. He knew change had to happen in America. His clarity of WHY, his sense of purpose, gave him the strength and energy to continue his fight against often seemingly insurmountable odds. There were others like him who shared his vision of America, but many of them gave up after too many defeats. Defeat is painful. And the ability to continue head-on, day after day, takes something more than knowing what legislation needs to be passed. For civil rights to truly take hold in the country, its organizers had to rally everyone. They may have been able to pass legislation, but they needed more than that, they needed to change a country. Only if they could rally a nation to join the cause, not because they had to, but because they wanted to, could any significant change endure. But no one person can effect lasting change alone. It would take others who believed what King believed.

When Glenn Beck announced that he would be at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate that speech, I was skeptical like many others.  But then I heard Glenn explain his why and I was moved. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMGpBCllHWs&hl=en_US&fs=1&hl=en]

Back to Simon Sinek and Martin Luther King:

People heard his beliefs and his words touched them deep inside. Those who believed what he believed took that cause and made it their own. And they told people what they believed. And those people told others what they believed. Some organized to get that belief out more efficiently.

And in the summer of 1963, a quarter of a million people showed up to hear Dr. King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

But how many people showed up for Dr. King?

Zero.

They showed up for themselves. It was what they believed. It was what they saw as an opportunity to help America become a better version of itself. It was they who wanted to live in a country that reflected their own values and beliefs that inspired them to get on a bus to travel for eight hours to stand in the Washington sun in the middle of August to hear Dr. King speak. Being in Washington was simply one of the things they did to prove what they believed. Showing up that day was one of the WHATs to their own WHY. This was a cause and it was their cause.

Ultimately, that’s why people come to Tea Parties.  They don’t come for the hosts or for Martin Luther King or for Thomas Jefferson.  They come because they honor themselves.  They come because they believe they are worthy of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They come because they believe their children should be free of our debt and of Washington’s onerous regulations.

As you look over your calendars, please set aside two important dates:

August 28: Honor America and yourself by watching Glenn Beck or attending his program on the Mall in Washington, DC.

On September 12: Honor America and yourself by attending a Tea Party in St. Louis or Washington or Sacramento

The why is so important, far more important than the tactics.  I know I can get all caught up in minutiae. I worry about dates and admin and paperwork and marketing and locations and images.  That’s fine—someone must.  But when those details drive a wedge between us and our why, they do us no good.  If we don’t project our why in everything we do, then we quickly become cranks who worry more about being busy than about doing good. 

Tea Parties and events like Restoring Honor remind us of why.  It’s important to reflect.