“. . . you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” – Numbers 20:12
“I have a dream . . .” For the majority of us those are the words most often associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember them not only because of Dr. King’s often quoted famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963, but it was in the context of that passionate address that he defined his life’s mission and purpose, summarizing all his courageous acts, brilliant writings, and inspiring speeches. Arguably, and as some scholars have claimed, it may have been the greatest speech of the twentieth century. But one thing is for sure, by the time he stepped down from the podium that day not only did the world understand Dr. King’s dream, more importantly he inspired others to share in it, and continues to do so today.
Like Moses, though, who never made it to the Promise Land Dr. King’s own life was tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet before he could experience the fulfillment of his dream. But even if he were still living today would it be so? The honest answer must be that we are still far from the peaceful, civil, racially equal society of his dream. Progress has been made for sure, but his dream was so big and audacious it will likely still be a work in progress generations from now.
Moses’ led the historic Exodus with a dream of the Promise Land, and Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement with a dream of racial equality. Both dreams are examples of what Jim Collins, in his best-selling books Good to Great and Built to Last, referred to as BHAGs, an acronym for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” “A BHAG,” according to Collins, “is a huge and daunting goal – like a mountain to climb. It is clear, compelling, and people ‘get it’ right away. A BHAG serves as a unifying focal point of effort, galvanizing people and creating team spirit as people strive toward a finish line.” Moses and Dr. King both certainly accomplished that, didn’t they?
Moses’ BHAG has outlived him by thousands of years as the Exodus story continues to inspire generation after generation. And Dr. King, whose BHAG has thus far outlived him by several decades, continues to inspire our society, and will no doubt continue to do so. It makes me wonder, then, about our own big dreams. If they are not expected to extend beyond our own lifetimes, are we dreaming big enough dreams?