“Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Numbers6:24-26)
Happy New Year!
January 1st marks the beginning of a New Year. It also marks a new beginning for our school year with the start of the Third Quarter. A fresh start for everyone.
As we begin this New Year, it is also a time for us to remember the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a young man growing up in Brooklyn, New York I can recall the news covering the many marches and speeches of Dr. King for the cause of Civil Rights and Social Justice. At that time I was unaware of Dr. King’s impact on my own life. It was many years later that I started to become aware of Dr. King’s speeches on justice for all of God’s people. This knowledge led me to the Josephites and to commit my life to the mission of ministering within the African American Community.
While Dr. King is noted for his “I Have a Dream” speech given in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August Saturday, he also shared many other challenging speeches and writings, which include “The Drum Major Instinct” and “A Letter From the Birmingham Jail.” However, one I have found personally challenging in my own life is the speech he gave to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia, Pa. on October 26, 1967, “What is Your Life’s Blueprint.”
In this speech, Dr. King challenged the students who sat before him to focus their time and energy on being the best that God created them to be. To this end he stated:
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
Every year, I have developed the habit of re-reading this speech, to challenge myself to always strive to become my best in everything that I do.
As we begin a New Year, and a new quarter in our academic year, I would encourage our students to read Dr. King’s speech and allow his words to resonate within you. His words to us today are just as important and as vibrant with meaning today as they were back in 1967. For in essence, he is calling each of us to fulfill our own mission in life, a mission of greatness that is within us. Always remember what Dr. King requested all of us to do in life, “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
Have a Happy and Blessed New Year, and a great and successful Third Quarter.
In Saint Joseph,
Rev. Peter C. Weiss, S.S.J.
Chief Religious Officer