Dr Martin Luther King delivered a speech to students at Philadelphia on October 1967, six months before his death. It is both relevant for children and adults as we ask ourselves what is the blueprint of our lives. Here is the excerpt of the speech.
I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is in your life’s blueprint? This is a most important and crucial period of your lives for what you do now and what you decide now at this age may well determine which way your life shall go. Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, as the model for those who are to build the building, and a building is not well erected without a good, sound and solid blueprint.
Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint. I want to suggest some of the things that should be in your life’s blueprint.
Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you are nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance…
Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as a basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days and the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. And once you discover what it will be, set out to do it, and to do it well.
And I say to you, my young friends, that doors are opening to each of you—doors of opportunity to each of you that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to enter these doors as they open.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said, in a lecture back in 1871, that “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”
That hadn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons why we often drop out of school, but I urge you, in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you are forced to live so often with intolerable conditions — stay in school.
And when you discover what you are going to be in life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it…If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a scrub in the valley. But be the best little scrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are…
And finally, in your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice…Let us keep going toward the goal of self-hood, to the realization of the dream of brotherhood and toward the realization of the dream of understanding good will
..We must keep moving, we must keep going. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.