Essay: Martin Luther King Junior of All Famous

Pages: 10 (3230 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper

Martin Luther King Junior

Of all famous twentieth century leaders, few have come to possess as lasting an impact on their people and their culture as Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, the one man who it can safely be said to have had a greater impact on human society as a whole happens to be precisely the man whom King borrowed many of his approaches to leadership and social change: Mohandas Gandhi. In addition to inventing a nonviolent approach toward aggressive social change, Gandhi was a man of God, and promoted modesty, self-understanding, acceptance, charity and justice. King explicitly learned from Gandhi's methods, and attempted to apply them to the dominant injustice he saw in modern American society: segregation and social inequity.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," expresses a number of his core philosophical beliefs, which act as his basic motivation for carrying out the particular actions he has engaged in during the civil rights movement. One of the fundamental bases for his nonviolent methodology was borrowed from Mahatma Gandhi, who was also a very spiritual man, and fought against what he believed to be injustice through a campaign of nonviolent agitation and civil disobedience. King evokes many of the philosophical premises that justified Gandhi in his actions, and explicitly mentions another famous social agitator -- Socrates -- in the hopes of solidifying the logical foundations of the notion of social protest (King, 1963).

When it comes to commitment and communication, the two can easily be displayed in the case of King through his famous letter from the Birmingham jail, where King demonstrated both his ability to communicate his message, and to undergo deplorable treatment -- through commitment -- in the name of his cause. Essentially, King believes that taking direct action is necessary, despite the possibility of conflict, to bring individuals and society as a whole to a crisis point, at which they are forced to face the truths that they have kept hidden from themselves -- either consciously or subconsciously. He writes, "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue," (King). King mentions that this social tension -- which can often turn violent -- is analogous to the abstract, mental tension that Socrates hoped to evoke in people's minds once they began to critically examine at premises that they commonly took for granted. The underlying message is clear: King believes that this sort of tension is essential to the process of uncovering the truth; and the truth, to him, is that African-Americans have been treated in a consistently immoral manner by the dominant social groups of the United States -- namely, white Americans (Morris, 1986).

King was attempting to bring about the questioning of the status quo, causing a crisis in the minds of many Americans; His ultimate goal was to show Americans as a whole the injustice of the society in which they lived, and hopefully spur them to take action to right these grievous wrongs. It is upon these grounds that King makes the distinction between the laws of American society and philosophical conceptions of right and wrong. He explains, "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law of the law of God," (King). From this point-of-view, the laws made by mankind are mere mimicry of the laws of morality -- they are humankind's best attempts to put abstract notions of right and wrong into a formal and workable framework. However, as King points out, this framework, in practice, often strays very far from the moral premises that they are supposed to protect. Segregation, obviously, is a perfect example of this. The police in Birmingham, by arresting King and his followers, and restoring order, though following the letter of the law to do so, they are simultaneously violating the moral law that says the treatment of back Americans in Birmingham by whites has been wrong. Overall, King uses this distinction to great effect in pointing out why it is wrong to break some laws and a moral obligation to break others. This tactic perfectly exemplifies King's discernment as a leader: He was willing to do whatever it took to make his message to the American people. However this was tempered with the fact that the message would be most effective if he and his followers did absolutely nothing morally or legally wrong -- adhering to the laws of human rights and the constitution, that is (Jackson, 2006).

King, a Lutheran minister, became one of the great leaders in world history for a number of reasons. Certainly, he adopted a cultural worldview quite similar to that of Gandhi and he adopted the tactics of nonviolent social agitation invented by Gandhi, but these characteristics alone are not enough to account for King's success as a leader. Essentially, king possessed many -- perhaps innate -- gifts that allowed him to evolve into the most celebrated leader of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Yet king also cultivated these qualities, and developed them into forces to be reckoned with. Many of the basic qualities of a successful leader are identified in John C. Maxwell's book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others will Want to Fallow. King, almost undoubtedly, displayed each of the qualities that Maxwell outlines to varying degrees in his lifetime; furthermore, one of the reasons his message and image have lasted for half a century in the cultural mindset of the United States is simply because people wanted to follow him; King's message was contagious, and he happened to be the best champion of communicating it.

Maxwell's first seven characteristics of a successful leader are character, charisma, commitment, communication, competence, courage and discernment (Maxwell 4-5). In terms of character, the fact that King was a Lutheran minister, and represented a commitment to God as well as universal virtues easily allowed others to identify him as an individual worthy of admiration. Ministers possess, socially, a natural position that focuses their congregation's eye on their lives and on their virtues -- or faults. Because of this experience, King was easily situated such that he could grow comfortable with many people looking to him for guidance and simultaneously scrutinizing his personal activities.

Charisma is, perhaps, a less tangible character trait and, as history has shown, can be used for both good and evil. Men like Adolf Hitler have risen to power on the shoulders of their charisma, even if large portions of the people that put them into power did not fully adopt the messages they were preaching. Hitler, for example, attempted to bring the German people in on his cause of exterminating the Jewish race and faith; however, it is unclear exactly how many or how pervasive German hatred of Jews was entering the war. A landmark book by Christopher Browning called Ordinary Men depicts the transformation of the men of Police Battalion 101 as they go from being largely nonviolent citizens -- who may or may not have been anti-Semitic in any way -- into brutal thugs, capable of every sort of brutality imaginable. Hitler's words reinforced the idea that the Jews were a threat and not worthy of their place in Germany, though Browning's research shows that it was not the message that was important, but the way in which it was delivered by the Nazi leader -- it was Hitler's charisma. Whether individual soldiers adhered to this notion fully or not -- whether or not they identified the Jews as the primary threat to Germany -- it was simply accepted that this was a necessary course of events because of Hitler's powerful force as a leader (Browning 160). Accordingly, those who simply fell in line with mob aggression and gradually became accustomed to it, were simultaneously prepared to ascent that the Jewish people were lowly enough to deserve murderous handling.

Judging from this, it is clear that charisma and communication skills do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. People followed Hitler whether or not they believed his arguments. Obviously, charisma was one of King's traits as well. His magnetic style of speech delivery was cultivated through his experience as a minister and, quite likely, though watching his father speak as a minister. And, of course, many of his words -- such as his "I have a dream" speech -- remain iconic to this day as much for the message as the powerful delivery of the speech.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," expresses a number of his core philosophical beliefs, which act as his basic motivation for carrying out the particular actions he has engaged in during the civil rights movement. One of the fundamental bases for his nonviolent methodology was borrowed from Mahatma Gandhi, who was also a very spiritual man, and fought against what he believed to be injustice through a campaign of nonviolent agitation and civil… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

?
Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 10-page paper:  $28.88

or

2.  Buy + remove from all search engines
(Google, Yahoo, Bing) for 30 days:  $38.88

or

3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)

or

4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

MLK's Letter From Birmingham Jail Thesis


Martin Luther King a Dreamer Term Paper


MLK Jr.'s I Had a Dream Speech Term Paper


Martin Luther King Through the Lens Term Paper


Martin Luther King the Story Term Paper


View 152 other related papers  >>

Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Martin Luther King Junior of All Famous.  (2009, November 24).  Retrieved May 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/martin-luther-king-junior-famous/65986

MLA Format

"Martin Luther King Junior of All Famous."  24 November 2009.  Web.  22 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/martin-luther-king-junior-famous/65986>.

Chicago Format

"Martin Luther King Junior of All Famous."  Essaytown.com.  November 24, 2009.  Accessed May 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/martin-luther-king-junior-famous/65986.