Monday, January 16, 2012

Moral Authority?

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

I was driving home this morning, listening to the radio. They were replaying the speech Dr. King gave in Memphis shortly before he was murdered.

All these years later, his voice, his words, his message are still inspiring.

It made me think back to an experience I had about 5 years ago.

I had just given a speech to a CEO and his top-level executives. My theme was change and leadership.

After my talk, the CEO thanked me and then addressed his team.

"Who would you say has moral authority in America today? Business, government, religion--any category. Who has moral authority?"

Who, in other words, would you listen to the way I was listening to Dr. King on my drive home?

Five years ago, the room fell silent at the CEO's question. Time passed. No one spoke.
No one came up with a name. Not one name.

After about 5 minutes of dead silence, the CEO changed the subject.

But when I got home, his question had made me think.

If there is no one today--no one in business, government, or the non-profit world--who has moral authority; if there is no candidate for President who speaks with that kind of honesty and integrity; no one running a Fortune 500 company who speaks with the public interest in mind; no one at the top of an organized religion or a major philanthropy who can address the moral issues of our time; if that's the case, then it's clear who we have to look to for moral authority.

It's up to us, people.

It's up to us.

It's up to us to care enough to speak out, to know enough to say what's right and what's wrong, and to love enough to stay true to the oldest truth of all: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Dr. King's birthday is a good day to look at each other, and see in each other someone with real moral authority.

Ultimately, that was Dr. King's message.

It's up to us.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb