Martin Luther King, Jr. Gives Life-Changing Advice to Teens: Watch His Speech, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” (1967)

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.


Relat­ed Con­tent 

How Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Used Niet­zsche, Hegel & Kant to Over­turn Seg­re­ga­tion in Amer­i­ca

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr.‘s Hand­writ­ten Syl­labus & Final Exam for the Phi­los­o­phy Course He Taught at More­house Col­lege (1962)

How Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Got C’s in Pub­lic Speaking–Before Becom­ing a Straight‑A Stu­dent and a World Class Ora­tor

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