Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered this speech speaking to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967. This speech is also popularly known by the title “WHAT’S YOUR LIFE’S BLUEPRINT?”
Below is the full text (Edited version) of the speech by Dr. King.
NOTABLE QUOTE FROM THIS SPEECH:
“If you can’t fly, run.
If you can’t run, walk.
If you can’t walk, crawl,
but by all means, keep moving!”
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Martin Luther King Jr. What Is Your Lifes Blueprint
…And help welcome our honored distinguished guest, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thank you very kindly.
Principal [inaudible], Mr. Williams, Members of the faculty and members of the student body of Barratt Junior High School, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here today, and to have the opportunity of taking a very brief break in a pretty busy schedule in the city of Philadelphia, to share with you the students of Barrat Junior High School.
And I want to express my personal appreciation to the Principal and the administration for inviting me and for giving me the opportunity to see this very fine and enthusiastic group of students here at Barrat.
I guess I ought to start out with a commercial, and that is tonight we’re going to have a great night in the city of Philadelphia at the Spectrum.
I know you’ve heard of that new impressive structure called the Spectrum and I know you’ve heard of Harry Belafonte and Aretha Franklin and Nipsey Russell and Sidney Poitier and all of these other great and outstanding artists. Well, they’re going to be here tonight at the Spectrum and I hope that each of you will go home and tell your parents to be there tonight for this great freedom festival.
And I hope you will come also, for it will be a great experience and, by coming, you will be supporting the work of the civil rights movement.
Now that I’ve gotten the commercial out of the way, I’ll move on and say some things that I want to say very briefly. And I’m being very honest; I’m going to be brief because I have other engagements. I don’t have a tradition of being brief all the time. You know I’m a Baptist preacher, and we can talk a long time, but I’m going to be really brief today.
I want to ask you a question, and that is: WHAT IS IN YOUR LIFE’S BLUEPRINT?
This is the most important and crucial period of your lives. For what you do now and what you decide now at this age may well determine which way your life shall go.
And whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint. And that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, as the model, for those who are to build the building. And a building is not well erected without a good, sound, and solid blueprint.
Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is: whether you have a proper, a solid, and a sound blueprint.
And I want to suggest some of the things that should be in your life’s blueprint.
NUMBER 1: PRINCIPLE OF SOMEBODINESS
Number one in your life’s blueprint should be: a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you are nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.
Now that means you should not be ashamed of your color. You know, it’s very unfortunate that in so many instances, our society has placed a stigma on the Negro’s color. You know there are some Negros who are ashamed of themselves? Don’t be ashamed of your color. Don’t be ashamed of your biological features.
Somehow you must be able to say in your own lives, and really believe it, “I Am Black But Beautiful!” and believe that in your heart. And therefore you need not be lured into purchasing cosmetics advertised to make you lighter, neither do you need to process your hair to make it appear straight. I have good hair and it is as good as anybody else’s in the world. And we’ve got to believe that.
Now in your life’s blueprint, be sure that you have a principle of somebodiness.
NUMBER 2: DETERMINATION TO ACHIEVE EXCELLENCE
Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days and the years unfold, what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be.
And once you discover what it will be, set out to do it, and to do it well.
And I say to you, my young friends, that doors are opening to each of you — doors of opportunity are opening to each of you that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to enter these doors as they open.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture back in 1871 that, “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 hadn’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. And I understand all of the sociological reasons why we often drop out of school.
But I urge you in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you are forced to live so often with intolerable conditions, stay in school.
And when you discover what you’re going to be in life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. And just don’t set out to do a good Negro job but do a good job that anybody could do.
Don’t set out to be just a good Negro doctor, a good Negro lawyer, a good Negro school teacher, a good Negro preacher, a good Negro barber, a beautician, a good Negro skilled laborer… for if you set out to do that, you have already flunked your matriculation exam for entrance into the University of Integration.
Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
If it falls to 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, and 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 on the top of the hill,