Great Leaders of History:
Dr. Martin Luther King

Welcome to Part 1 of our Great Leaders of History section.


Quotes included are either from great speeches by these great world leaders, obituaries or writings they are famous for. We welcome your suggestions for leaders you would like to see added. This first section, includes ideas for a group team building activity suitable for workplace or classroom

Martin Luther King Jr., Leader of the American Civil Rights Movement

Born: January 15, 1929. Died: April 4, 1968. Widely considered one of the top 10 great leaders of history, Dr. King was a US Baptist minister. He is known as one of the greatest orators in modern history, promoting an end to racial segregation via non violent civil disobedience when required, as well as ending poverty and the Vietnam war. As the ultimate African American civil rights figure of the 20th century, he was a tireless activist and recognized around the world in his own time. A follower of the Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, he promoted nonviolence. His views placed him in the forefront of modern American liberalism.

From Dr. King’s Great Speeches:

We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.(1)

Great Leaders Create Positive Change

• 1955: Dr. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott

• 1957: Co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

• 1963 March on Washington: Dr. Martin Luther King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech. His vision: a color blind society.

• 1964: Dr. King is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize

• April 4, 1968: Dr. King assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

• 1977: posthumous award - Presidential Medal of Freedom

• 2004: posthumous award - Congressional Gold Medal

• 1986: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day established as a U.S. federal holiday

Great Leaders of History Group Team Building Activity

Objective: to create discussion around characteristics of great leadership, and instances where it is evident in our team.

Instructions: create 2 teams. Using the Great Leaders of History example here, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., develop a plausible response this great leader might give to a journalist’s question about a key issue in your field today.

Time limit: 20 minutes to develop the response.

In plenary, the responses can be presented in standard narrative, or in role play. Contact us for ideas on role play strategies which promote respect for the individuals involved, while engaging the team and meeting the activity objective.

(1) Quote from sermon, 1968.

Read about more Great Leaders of History. Just click on the images below for Golda Meir quotes & timeline, Ghandi Quotes & timeline. More to come: get inspired & Enjoy!

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The image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s seen here, from Wikipedia, is used within the guidelines of Creative Commons protocol, Attribution 3.0 Unported.

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