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Lessons From MLK on Effective Communication

August 29, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps best known as a humanitarian and a civil rights leader. But his skill as an orator isn’t far down on his list of accomplishments — and that’s the talent Above the Market, a blog for financial advisors, emphasizes to give advisors some tips on effective communication.

King was a firm believer in brevity. As the last speaker at the famous March on Washington rally, which took place 50 years ago yesterday, he “was committed to keeping his remarks to about 10 minutes,” the blog says. Rather than subjecting weary marchers to a protracted harangue at the end of a long and emotional event, he kept his speech short and pithy, making it that much more appealing and memorable to his listeners.

King’s ability to keep things short gave him time to improvise. He tacked on the actual “I have a Dream” portion of his speech at the behest of a friend. “Mahalia Jackson, who had sung earlier and who was sitting behind the podium, called out” the suggestion that King “‘tell them about the Dream,’ referring to remarks she had heard him use in smaller settings,” Above the Market explains.

King took the hint, added the famous passage to the end of a prepared speech and, as the blog says, ended up turning an already “excellent speech into history.”

By Thomas Coyle
  • To read the Above the Market article cited in this story, click here.