Six months before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia, and asked What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?
Addressing the students, he observed: “This is the 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.”
So what makes for a sound blueprint? The civil rights leader had some suggestions:
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.
Now that means you should not be ashamed of your color. You know, it’s very unfortunate that in so many instances, our society has placed a stigma on the Negro’s color. You know there are some Negros who are ashamed of themselves? Don’t be ashamed of your color. Don’t be ashamed of your biological features…
Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the 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.
You can read a transcript of the speech here. As a postscript, it’s worth highlighting a remarkable comment left on YouTube, from the student who apparently recorded the speech on October 26, 1967. It reads:
I cannot believe that I found this footage. I am the student cameraman that recorded this speech. I remember this like it was yesterday. I have been telling my boys for years about this and now I can show them. I thought this was lost years ago and am so happy that it survived the years. I was 12 or 13 years old when he can to Barrett and was mesmerized by what he was saying. I can’t wait to share this with my family. Wow I am elated that I found this.