Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pep Talk: "No Short Cuts"

It’s late on a Saturday afternoon in late February. Billy Joel plays in the background but cranium is focused on Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have been watching with interest the saga surrounding the MLK Memorial dedicated last year in our nation’s capitol. The civil-rights hero had a dream and, I can only speak for myself, challenged each of us to get past color of skin and focus on courage of heart in transforming America for the better. The memorial sits on our National Mall adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial and between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It’s the first major memorial on the Mall dedicated to an African-American and non president. Impressive.

There has been controversy about the design. Specifically a quote carved into the memorial’s side. I think, just my opinion, it’s a good example of the danger of taking short cuts when more effort would have resulted in better outcome.

Here’s what’s burrowed into the stone on one side: “I was a drum major for peace.” Well, that’s not exactly what King said when others suggested his leadership made the orator a “drum major” for social change. Opponents of the inscription said, and I agree, it made King sound arrogant. What he actually said in a 1964 speech just a month before his assassination, was this:

“If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice; if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for peace; if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for righteousness.” Humble.

Kudos to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for stepping in and saying, “Hold on here folks. We must get this right.” Why a stoneworker from China, not America, chiseled the words and why nobody in the project’s development process stepped forward to correct the prose are topics for another day, the point is this: When we screw up the best darn thing we can do is try and fix it as fast as possible. Unfortunately, often those screw ups come along when we’re trying to cut corners and not giving our best effort.

What is our best effort? That’s a tough question to answer, right? Dang, sometimes “best effort” means just surviving the heartaches of life that show up when we least expect it: Divorce, illness, injury and job loss to name just a few. And then there’s moments where “best effort” is moving forward from any of the before-mentioned, or other, calamities that strike and leave us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” And yes, there are moments when “best effort” involves us continuing to excel in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve - home, work and elsewhere. “Best effort” ain’t easy to define but always worthy of pursuit.

I’m just a simple dude from Missouri but it seems to me the more time, spent hanging out in the “best efforts” category, the better. It’s tough to dwell there when we’re cutting corners, wherever we roam.

This week, let’s keep this MLK goof in our craniums as an example of the challenges we bring forth in our lives when choosing to take short cuts. Let’s don’t go there, K? Because more often than not, when choosing such a course, we lose our way and repairs to relationships, careers, health or monuments are costly considering the deep initial chisel.

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