Christian Sagers, AP
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., delivers his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in the auditorium of Oslo University in Norway on Dec. 10, 1964.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., like most high-impact leaders, proved that you don’t need to be perfect to play a powerful part on the stage of history. The legacy of Dr. King, and all those who choose to make a difference, are grounded in and driven by principles. Those principles are worth reviewing on a day dedicated to celebrating the life, words and works of a true reformer.

All good work is noble, and any work worth doing is worth doing well. Said Dr. King, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” In other words, there are no small parts or players in today’s world, and every good work done well has the potential to impact others.

The world is in desperate need of new dreamers, new visionaries and new heroes. It is well chronicled that Dr. King, like the founders of the nation and those who have launched meaningful movements before and since, were all willing to stand up, stand out and even stand alone if necessary. Dr. King remarked, “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

Often it is the minority within a minority that creates the tipping point moment for monumental change — occasionally changing the course of a nation. More often it is a handful of creative and passionate people making a community, company or organization a little better.

In one of Dr. King’s last speeches, he declared, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Individual success is grand, but true success comes in transcending personal goals, egos, interests and agendas in order to focus on making a difference for others.

Finally, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in December of 1964, Dr. King said, “You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth. Most of these people will never make the headline and their names will not appear in Who's Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live — men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization — because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.”

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A commitment to engage in worthy work and doing it with excellence, engaging with the creative minority to change a community or country, transcending personal interest for the greater good and simply doing what needs to be done are lessons from the life and legacy of Dr. King worth reviewing, celebrating and emulating.

In honoring Dr. King, we salute all the reformers, visionaries and change-agents here in Utah and across the country. Such reformers will be judged not by the color of their skin, nor by whether their name appeared in a newspaper, within a website or on a monument — but by the content of character — just as Dr. King taught and lived.