The Seattle Times has a page of Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches. The “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech includes a quote from Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Actually, it turns out it’s a misquote — Wikipedia explains that: Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. But, never mind, Ralph Waldo Emerson, I think, would have liked what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did with the words.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

This hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

The next bit of the speech is more famous — “sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.” Go read it. It’s short and inspiring: What is Your Life’s Blueprint?


Sunday Transcendentalist Quote — The MLK Birthday Edition — 2 Comments

  1. Inspirational, indeed.

    This reminds me of some of my favorite stories (more movies come to mind than books just now), ones where the character tries and tries and tries but never quite achieves the greatness he envisions. Or, maybe she thinks she does, but the rest of us view it otherwise. I’m thinking of Rushmore and The Castle. Oh…The Flight of the Conchords!

    I love characters with that never-give-up, “sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures” attitude.

    Good thoughts for today. Thanks!

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