Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Modeled Emotional Intelligence Before EQ Became A Field
Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.
January 19, 2022
The FAERF Institute takes pride in remembering the birthday of a great humanitarian whose life’s work and leadership influenced our own mission to improve how businesses respond to survivors of workplace tragedies throughout the world. We want to express gratitude to Dr. King’s family, scholars and historians who continue to honor him by sharing articles and stories about his life and the enormous contribution he made to the evolution of compassion consciousness.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
On Monday July 17, 2022, businesses and schools throughout the US closed in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Congress designated the holiday in 1994 as a National Day of Service in honor of King’s own life of service. In a tribute to his life’s work, the third Monday of January is now a “day on”—not a “day off”—a day to serve others.
Dr. King’s leadership style exemplified many dimensions of emotional and social intelligence, including the competencies of empathy, initiative, self-management and impulse control, teamwork and collaboration, and inspirational leadership. While the scientific explanation of brain function supporting emotional intelligence would not be widely known until decades after his death, Dr. King instinctively knew how to lead others toward a more compassionate world. (See Goleman, D., 1995; LeDoux, J.,1998, 2020 for more on the underlying concepts of emotional and social intelligence).
Dr. King was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Dr. King entered the Baptist ministry. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the youngest person ever to receive this high honor, and was twice named Man of the Year by Time Magazine. He advocated for nonviolent resistance to overcome injustice as a means of lifting racial oppression. Dr. King was assassinated at the age of 39 in Memphis, Tennessee, as he stood on the balcony of his hotel. He would have turned 93 this month.
While his contributions to the evolution of compassion consciousness are widely known and easily accessible for those who wish to read of his accomplishments, Dr. King’s goals were largely summarized in his famous “I have a Dream” speech, delivered in August of 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to an audience of over 200,000 people. His inspiring vision that all people would be treated equally as human beings (a major theme of the speech) can be seen as an emerging reality throughout the world today—far beyond the United States.
“Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (excerpted from Morehouse College student paper, 1947 later referred to as his official belief in: The Purpose of Education).
At the FAERF Institute, we see education as the key to improving support for people following a workplace disaster. It should not matter in what part of the world or which industry the tragedy takes place: Empathy and emotional awareness should guide the response. And we believe these key components of emotional intelligence are brought about by education. “Mere intelligence,” as Dr. King states, is not enough.
“You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Following Dr. King’s model, we are taking our first step in the Institute’s goals with the development of a Certificate in International Humanitarian Assistance Response to Workplace Trauma, with the Introduction module to launch during the first quarter of 2022. Watch this space for more information and details of how you can enroll in the certificate program.