January 16, 2023
Arndrea Waters King
President, Drum Major Institute
Former Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. This year marks the 60th anniversary of King’s call for civil and economic equality, a mission that remains more important than ever.
In the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s first Equality of Opportunity in Action event of 2023, Latricia Boone, Vice President of the Equality of Opportunity Initiative, spoke with Arndrea Waters King, President of Drum Major Institute and daughter-in-law of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Read on for King’s insights on her father-in-law's legacy, how women leaders and the next generation can become agents of change, and the role of the business community in creating equal opportunity for all.
The King Legacy Belongs to All of Us
Reflecting on the progress our country has made since 1963, King recognized we have “much to celebrate, collectively and even nationally.”
“However, these past few years … didn’t create the fault lines in our society, but they certainly highlighted [them],” she acknowledged. “Over the last few years, in particular, I think people are tired.”
Despite this, King encouraged us to continue fighting for true equality of opportunity.
“The King legacy really belongs to each one of us … we each are the dream, and we each have a part in fulfilling and building the beloved community that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King not only envisioned but fought so hard for,” she said. “It really is up to each one of us, each generation, to continue to feed the flames of peace, justice, and equity.
Women’s Leadership Thrives When Women Support Each Other
One critical aspect of advancing equity is supporting equality of opportunity for women, particularly in leadership roles. To ensure women’s leadership can continue to show up where it needs to, King encouraged women to first practice self-care.
“We have to remember what we’re embarking on is not a sprint, but a marathon,” she explained. “In that sense, we have to continue to take care of ourselves, so we can continue to be there for others.”
Being there for others, according to King, also includes supporting other women.
“Real queens straighten each other’s crowns,” King said. “It’s very important as women … that we support each other, continue to network, and lift each other up.”
Understanding the Past Will Allow Young People to Build a Better Future
The next generation plays a pivotal role in building a better, more equitable future, according to King.
“I really believe that the generation that is coming up now is truly one of the greatest generations that we have seen,” King said. “And I have no doubt they’re going to continue to lift up the banners of peace, justice, and equity.”
“But,” she added, “I would encourage them to make sure that they are also educated in the principles of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the principles of nonviolence, to truly understand nonviolence.”
King also encouraged young people to read and listen to her father-in-law's works, such as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech or the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
The Business Community Plays a Vital Role in Advancing Equity for All
The vision for equality of opportunity requires support from everyone — including and especially from the business community.
“There is a certain freedom in having financial freedom … so it’s imperative for the business community to continue to find ways to make an equitable society,” King said. “There is a lot to be done within the system economically … to look at ways in which we [can] all do good and do better.”
“It’s a continual practice to look around the business table and community, making sure there are diverse voices at the table,” she continued. “[And] when you have diverse voices involved, it actually strengthens your business.”
This mission of equality, King reminds us, is “not about collective guilt, but it certainly is about collective responsibility.”
“[We must continue] to find ways to offer the most opportunity for the most people,” King said, “and also have an understanding of those that have been left out for far too long.”
From the Series