As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tomorrow, I want to share a great story with several excellent lessons. It was written by a close friend, Jack Fertig, and is about another friend and mentor, Coach George Raveling. Hope you enjoy it…….
In his mid twenties, former USC basketball coach and Nike Executive George Raveling, a native of Washington D.C., was with a few of his friends when they were approached by a man who told them that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was going to be speaking in the nation’s capitol. This was no secret as there was a bus in the air as soon as Dr. King’s arrival date was announced. Apparently, the size of the crowd was misjudged and there was need for additional security. Would they be interested? George, who has always had the sense of recognizing a great opportunity when one is presented, immediately assured the guy he’d be available while his buddies made comments like, “I might have something to do,” “How long will it take?’ and even, “Do we get paid?”
The day of the speech arrived and George just didn’t get there on time, he got there 45 minutes early. The same man who had offered the gig was impressed and mentioned to George, who at 6’5”, could make a pretty good security guard and had he chosen that field, that he could serve as part of the group ON STAGE with Dr. King. George felt this had all the making of quite an event.
The oratory MLK delivered that day was entitled, “I HAVE A DREAM”. Yeah, that speech. As anyone who’s ever seen footage of the speech can attest that, at its conclusion, the massive audience was at an emotional frenzy. People were applauding, cheering, shouting, crying and no one was more caught up in the moment than George himself. As Dr. King began to leave the stage, George said to him, “Dr. King, may I have a copy of your speech?” At that moment, Martin Luther King, Jr. handed George the manuscript (hand written notes in the margin included) that he had just had in front of him. George thanked him, but at that moment, someone else said something and Dr. King had turned away. So George went home and stuck the notes in one of the numerous books he had in his apartment.
Subsequently, Dr. King was assassinated and stories of all the impressive, life changing accomplishments he’d made to humanity flooded the airwaves and print media. Naturally, the I HAVE A DREAM speech was referred to time and again. All of a sudden, it hit George that he had the original notes from that famous speech, arguably the greatest one ever given. He went home, rummaged through his belongings and, sure enough, there they were, stuck in the same book he had placed them in.
George began thinking, “These notes are part of history. They really should be in the Martin Luther King Museum in Atlanta.” He got the number, called and explained the experience and that he wanted to donate this valuable document to the museum-with one caveat. He didn’t want any money; he just wanted the plaque to say, “Notes donated by George H. Raveling.” As incredible as it sounds, the voice on the other end not only refused, but became somewhat indignant, lecturing George that he really didn’t have anything to do with the notes and turned down his request. George is as reasonable as the next guy, as well as quite a bit brighter, so once again, he attempted to get the man to understand he didn’t want the plaque to say “Written by George H. Raveling,” only that he had donated them. The museum rep couldn’t be budged, even telling George that the notes weren’t his, to which George replied, “Then how come I’m holding them in my hand?”
Shortly thereafter the call was terminated and, to this day, George has the I HAVE A DREAM notes safely stored away.
There are lessons to be learned from all stories and this one has several.
*When presented with an opportunity, seize it. Worry about what minor inconveniences it may cause you at a later date
*When you are supposed to be somewhere, don’t just get there on time, be early.
*Lose you inhibitions. If, at the conclusion of the speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. had said to the crowd, “Is there anyone out there who would like my notes?”, do you think George would have been the only person whose hand would have went up?
*Don’t let pride get in the way of a good decision. If George’s request had handled properly, the notes would be hanging in the museum as you read this.