Public Law 88-352 was enacted 50 years ago this past July. Over the vigorous objection of Georgia's Democratic Senator Richard Russell who insisted that the Senate "resist to the bitter end any measure or movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races," a majority of House and Senate Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act. And while this Act marked the beginning of a long march towards equal opportunity to access and employment, it conspicuously failed to contemplate the possibility that the previously disenfranchised could actually strive to transcend the state of their oppressors. The high water mark in 1964 was to rise to the level of the status quo of the majority white population.
This week, I am deeply honored to stand with a few visionaries who foresee the possibility that We The People step beyond the limitations of "as good as" and work towards an actuality that recognizes that transparency, stewardship and opportunity are, in their perfect implementation color-blind, status-blind, gender-blind. Fifty one years (just shy by a few days) from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that his "children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," a quiet alliance has assembled to take a remarkable step through the dream and into reality. Duncan Niederauer, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange Euronext Inc. is hosting the Sustaining Success Summit with PRO2CEO, an organization led by Keith and Kevin Carr. This S3Summit is bringing together athletes, entertainers, and entrepreneurs on the floor of the NYSE to discuss ways in which economic wealth can effect positive social change.
Rather than focusing on the economic disasters that frequently attend stories of young athletes and entertainers who find themselves in excessive financial stewardship roles with little to no information on how to manage money, the S3Summit is explicitly highlighting individuals and best practices which show that profligate destruction of economic wealth is neither inevitable nor universal. With a diverse contribution from individuals who have evidenced the capacity to take their achievements in one domain and transition into impactful positions in many other fields, this gathering proves to be one of the most understated but impactful milestones in reframing expectations and prejudice.
Dreaming and aspiring to a "new" or "different" experience of humanity is a legacy born of a predisposition to futility and hopelessness in far too many expressions. It's an entirely different undertaking to look at the wealth that one has at hand and align it to achieve an outcome far greater than one could have imagined. On August 19th, Dr. King, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and Senator Russell will all have an opportunity to see what none of them could have resolved through the lens of history. Far from marches for change, change will be ringing the closing bell on the most iconic trading floor in America.
"This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
… and Dr. King, let's add to the mountains and hills the floor of the NYSE. Thanks to the vision of its CEO Duncan Niederauer and Keith and Kevin Carr.