The Oxford Dictionary defines a visionary as a person who thinks about the future with imagination and wisdom. In other words, it is someone who dreams with courageous anticipation about what the future will or could be like. Visionaries not only have foresight but dare to stand at the forefront of change, using their voice, talents, and, if necessary, their life to see their hope come to fruition.
Because of visionaries like Martin Luther King Jr., policies, lives, and nations have been radically transformed to eradicate poverty, racism, and violence—but there is still work to be done.
On the 10th anniversary of Marketers That Matter’s founding date, we were privileged to host Martin Luther King III (the oldest son of Martin Luther King Jr.), his wife Arndrea King, and their mission partner, Craig Kielburger, Founder of We.org., on the Visionaries Podcast, who also graced us at the MTM CMO Dinner later that evening.
For this special episode of MTM Visionaries, Cara France, Founder of Marketers That Matter, guest hosted for Nadine Dietz. The conversation that follows is about as inspiring as it gets, as the three visionaries discuss their incredible ambition to move Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy forward, along with meaningful reflections on how his legacy has directly impacted their life.
You can listen to their conversation on your favorite podcast streaming platform and follow the transcript of their conversation below.
Moving A Legacy Forward
Cara France (MTM): Hello and welcome to Visionaries. I’m Cara France, Founder of Marketers That Matter, and today I am guest hosting for Nadine Dietz, who is with me at Roku’s headquarters in New York City, hosting the MTM Forum right next door.
I have three very special guests with me here in the studio. Martin Luther King, III, the eldest son of Dr. King, his wife, partner, and social justice advocate, Arndrea King, and Craig Kielburger, the founder of We.org.
Mr. And Mrs. King, along with Craig, have joined forces as they look towards the hundredth birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Which is a mere five years away. They’re here today to share a bit about an audacious initiative they’re undertaking to create unity, reunite communities, and lift one another up for the greater good.
Mr. King, I’d love to start with you. As a marketer, one could argue that in shepherding your father’s legacy, you are responsible for one of our world’s most iconic brands. What do you see the brand standing for?
MLK III: So I think that the King brand stands for number one, unity. It stands for love. It stands for bringing people together to do good in the world. My father and his team and my mother faced insurmountable odds. As they matriculated through society, starting in a very segregated society to transform it so that integration would be real. And then a Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a Voting Rights Act, which gave people the right to vote and fair housing legislation.
“The King brand stands for number one, unity. It stands for love. It stands for bringing people together to do good in the world.”MLK III
So, Dad had an agenda for transforming and changing our nation. Ultimately in 1963 when he delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech, he was talking about how to create a society where freedom, justice, and equality are real for all humankind, and that’s what he worked on throughout his life. He wanted to eradicate, or help eradicate, the triple evils of poverty, racism, and violence. Obviously now we are still deeply working on those issues.
Cara France: Mrs. King, you are your husband’s partner in life and in work. What are you most proud of in your work together?
Arndrea King: The very name of our organization, Drum Major Institute, is taken from the last sermon that Martin Luther King Jr. ever delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church. And in that sermon, he talked about living a life of peace, justice, and equity. That was the most important thing. And literally, when he was assassinated, two months later, Coretta Scott King chose that sermon to be played at his funeral. So, in a very real sense, he eulogized himself. We believe at Drum Major that call is our pursuit. Any time people can see themselves within the King legacy, and when they can see that their voice does matter, it facilitates change.
“Any time people can see themselves within the King legacy, and when they can see that their voice does matter, it facilitates change. ”Arndrea King
One of the things that ignited and excited me the most is we had a campaign called Deliver for Voting Rights. But the thing that was most exciting about that is that we had 200 organizations sign on to partner with us, and we also had a letter that was delivered to the White House that had 800–nearly a thousand–signatures of various faith leaders. And it was ecumenical. So, every time we see people coming together and standing together, those are the things that I am most proud of.
Cara France: Craig, as the founder of We.org, you’ve known The Kings for decades. Would you tell us about your work and how you’ve come to partner with the Kings?
Craig Kielburger (We.org): Well, we first had the pleasure to meet the Kings on the 50th anniversary of the I Have a Dream Speech (2013). Mr. King got on stage at these giant events called “We Days” to inspire young people and to share the stories of the family, their extraordinary commitment, and the civil rights movement.
Taking a little step back to answer the other part of your question, I first got involved at a young age. I was 12 years old when I founded a tiny nonprofit at the time, Free the Children, to get youth involved in service (in Africa, Asia and Latin America), which grew and evolved into also getting youth involved in service here at home (Canada, US, and UK).
We filled 131 stadiums with young people earning their way by doing more than 40 million hours of service to hear from icons, activists, musicians, and change makers. And upon reflecting on that journey, there have been few names and few messages that have so deeply inspired every audience as the Kings.
And when Mr. King gets up on stage for young people to speak about that iconic dream that we all know were his father’s words, there’s never a dry eye. Every youth rises up. And so, when he reached out and asked if we could assist in a small and humble way with this part of the vision that he’s seeking to build with his amazing wife, we said, of course, honored to assist in this iconic family.
Cara France: So to that point, Mr. King, I’d love to hear about the vision that you’re collectively working on to further fulfill your father’s legacy.
MLK III: So the vision is to engage millions of young people around our nation in achieving 100 million hours of community service over a five-year period.
Next year will be the 95th birthday of dad. So, by the hundredth birthday, five years later, we hope to achieve that milestone and more. That is the vision to see the manifestation come about in a number of ways.
And what has been tracked over the years, through what we as an organization did under Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger and their team, was that students who were engaged in community service or service activities were more involved in voting in political elections, more involved in giving money back to causes and charities. And just about every metric and area where improvement occurred, it was because they were engaged that way.
“Students who were engaged in community service or service activities were more involved in voting in political elections, more involved in giving money back to causes and charities. ”MLK III
So, as Craig said, they were able to do 40 million hours; we’re talking about a 100 million hours. It is going to create a dramatic shift in our nation, maybe even a tectonic shift, to create a better world for generations unborn.
Cara France: So, Mrs. King, from your perspective, why is now the time for this large of an initiative?
Arndrea King: When you really think about it, it’s interesting, because our daughter just said to me the other day, “you realize, Mom, that Papa King and I were born in two different centuries”. We’re in a time where young children today seem more divided than ever. I reflect back to the last book that Martin Luther King Jr. ever wrote. Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?
“Let us be those creative dissenters who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness. ”Martin Luther King Jr.
We really feel that this is a way to build community. We feel that getting involved and being of service is a way in which everyone can see themselves as part of the King legacy and that they can do their part in helping to create the beloved community, of which he was an architect of. Now it’s time for us all to build it.
Cara France: So Craig, what do you see as the keys to success? This is an audacious initiative.
Craig Kielburger: Well, the King’s vision is rooted in multiple generations, but especially young people, and I think that is going to be a driving factor behind this. I think that study after study shows that how we see the world largely is formed by the time we enter our early twenties.
Engaging young people at a very young age in schools to join in service will shape a generation in how they look at the world, how they serve, the careers they pick, how they vote, and how they spend their dollars. In order to fulfill that vision, it is going to require a lot of partners, and that’s why, Cara, we’re very grateful to you.
I know the Kings will be speaking later on tonight at your event and the conference that you founded and created for marketers. And marketers have a big megaphone. They can reach people. The Kings have an extraordinary family commitment of service. Marketers are hoping to bring that message of authenticity to connect with their clients and their customers, and I think that it is going to require, as the King family often says, the beloved community, whether they be a CEO, a marketer, a student, a teacher to come together to amplify this message out. It is going to take a lot of great partnership.
“Marketers have a big megaphone. They can reach people. The Kings have an extraordinary family commitment of service. Marketers are hoping to bring that message of authenticity.”Craig Kielburger
Cara France: Wonderful. So, Mrs. King, as you think about your own personal journey, other than, of course, your father-in-law, what role models come to mind and why?
Arndrea King: Certainly the very first role model would be my mother-in-law, Coretta Scott King, who was a tremendous force of nature. And I think that the world needs to know that she was involved in the peace movement before she married Martin, my father-in-law. When they came together, it really was a marriage of equals, and in some ways, she mentored him, and taught him about freedom movements.
I think about what she did, not only with her husband, but for our nation and world. She held the country together after the assassination. She went and led a march with her three oldest children before anyone had been caught for the murder. She led the campaign to make his holiday a reality.
“She held the country together after the assassination. She went and led a march with her three oldest children before anyone had been caught for the murder. She led the campaign to make his holiday a reality.”Arndrea King
And if it, I believe, weren’t for her, he would, in a lot of ways, as brilliant as he was, he would be lost just to the annals of history. But also, it is the women that I meet every single day that are not famous but whose circumstances have caused them to be famous, who have taken the ultimate pain and turned that into power.
I think about people like Ahmad Arbery’s mom in Georgia and how she held a community together, stood on love, and never uttered a bitter word. When I think about Tyre Nichol’s mom, whom we just met a few weeks ago, and how she stood in front of the nation and chose to say, I forgive the men who committed this crime towards my son.
I think about Lucy McBath, whose son was murdered, and she used that power and is now in Congress and speaks up against violence. So, to me, it is the people whose greatest pain has found a way to lift us all up and who have transformed that pain into power. These are the women that truly inspire me.
Cara France: Wow. That definitely touches my heart. Craig, what about you? What role models come to mind for you and why?
Craig Kielburger: I know you added a disclaimer at the top. You know, not only Dr. King, but I’m actually going to lean into Dr. King, if you don’t mind, because just to pause for a moment and to realize there was a beautiful speech I heard of a black individual who was the PBS News Hour anchor. And he said, “Every time I walk into a restaurant and sit as an equal, every time I swim in a pool, every time I stay at a motel, I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. King.” And I think, you know, we all easily forget our history so quickly.
To spend time with this extraordinary family, it’s been such an honor. And, partially why I’m sitting here is because I believe that America and the world owes them a debt of gratitude of the highest order where not only was, Mr. King’s father assassinated, but also his grandmother was assassinated, and his uncle died under very questionable circumstances. This family has given so much, and therefore, every time a person has the opportunity, they should cast in a ballot, and they should be honoring, not a day off, but a day on of service for MLK Day.
And they should be engaging on these great milestones that are coming forth. That’s why I believe in their campaign, and I believe in this family. And so, we need more people to lean in in that way, hear their call, hear their message of service, and join in today.
“This family has given so much, and therefore, every time a person has the opportunity, they should cast a ballot, and they should be honoring, not a day off, but a day on of service for MLK Day.”Craig Kielburger
Cara France: Wonderful. So, Mr. King. In wrapping up our session, could you share one memory or lesson that you learned from your father and mother that impacts how you walk through your life?
MLK III: What we were taught in our home was a love of self because before one can love other selves, they have to truly love themselves. We were taught to love our family. We were taught to love our community. When you love your community, there are many things that you don’t accept and tolerate, like poverty, racism, and violence.
We were taught to have a love of God, love of self, a love of family, a love of community, and a love of God. And in that vein, because we were taught that kind of love, we also were taught the power of forgiveness. Craig just stated, everyone knows that dad was killed in 1968 on April 4th. Many do not know my uncle mysteriously drowned.
And certainly, many do not know that my grandmother, my father’s mother, Alberto Williams King, was killed by an assassin’s bullet. Dad was killed by a white man. My grandmother was killed by a black man. It would’ve been easy to embrace hatred and hostility. But I chose through experiences that my mom and dad, grandmother and grandfather, aunts and uncles, and my church reinforced… I chose to forgive.
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream Speech
And so, I hope that I show up every day in a spirit of love, as opposed to a spirit of hate. People may have understood if I had hate because of the circumstances. But it is really a choice and an experience. I think we, in our nation and around the world, need to be able to learn more about forgiveness.
It doesn’t mean that you forget something that is so traumatic and hurtful, but if we can learn how to forgive, maybe we can move forward and create a true path of real reconciliation. I mean, that’s what dad lived and taught. That’s what my mother taught me. That’s what my grandparents taught me, and I’m thankful for those life lessons.
Cara France: Well, I want to thank all three of you, not only for joining us on Visionaries, but for the work that you are doing, for the difference that you are making, and for helping to create an opportunity for all of us to lean in. It’s such an extraordinary initiative.
Thank you for joining us on Visionaries. And thanks to the three of you for making such an extraordinary difference in all of our lives and for taking on this initiative that all of us are going to have a chance to lean into. Thanks to all of you who tuned in. We hope this episode provides some inspiration for your day, and we wish you the best.
To find out more about how you can be part of this initiative with Mr. King, Mrs. King, and Craig Kielburger, please visit: https://drummajorinst.org/.