Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and His Mentors

Martin Luther King Jr. was a revolutionary. His achievements and courage continue to serve as an inspiration to millions of believers, that one day all people will be treated as equals.

“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” King once said.

Giving back serves as a basic principle for the success of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ one-to-one mentoring programs.

It is very fitting that MLK Day falls during National Mentoring Month, considering King was not only an excellent mentor to others, but his own mentors helped encourage him to be the leader he is remembered as today.

Howard Thurman acted as a mentor to King during his time at Boston University.  Thurman, a professor, travelled the world to explore the many aspects of religion and met Gandhi in 1935. It was through Thurman’s teachings of Gandhi that King established the philosophy of non-violence during the Civil Rights Movement.

Benjamin Mays was president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where King pursued his undergraduate in sociology. Mays was the son of slaves and provided King historical context in the fight for equality. King was even known to quote Mays in a few of his most famous speeches.

Bayard Rustin, already an activist in American social movements, would meet King in 1956. With the strategies and organizational skills of Rustin, King gained the knowledge to effectively organize the community to form a larger movement. Rustin was an openly gay man, which during the time of the 1940s and 50s was extremely dangerous. The courage of his openness and pacifism inspired King to fully establish the Civil Rights Movement, with Rustin being a co-founder with King as his protégé.

King had many mentors in his life that helped inspire and assist him in his Civil Rights work. Sometimes we look at great leaders without taking into full consideration those who helped them achieve their potential.

As we celebrate the work of MLK and National Mentoring Month, consider honoring your own mentors by becoming one today. MLK once said he had a dream. It’s important for us to remember that all youth have dreams filled with potential, and through the power of mentoring, those dreams can be ignited.

Related Stories