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4 Lessons College Students Can Learn From MLK

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

1. Your “weakness” could be your strength.

Historical research of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggests that King may have been living with a mental illness. His ardent passion and nonstop schedule were marked by periodic hospitalizations for exhaustion. This pattern is typical for someone who might be bi-polar. What is fascinating about this insight into King’s life is that his bi-polar features may have been more of an asset than a handicap when one considers the amount of social change he accomplished.

The same could be true for you. Maybe you have ADHD. Maybe you are blind. Maybe you’re an insomniac. Maybe you’re a super-organized neat freak who drives your roommate crazy. Stop thinking of these things as impediments that you have to work around. Whatever your preconceived “weakness” is, take a lesson from Dr. King’s extraordinary life, and turn your imperfections into your super power!

2. Your college education is about far more than getting a job and making money.

Dr. King thought education played a crucial and transformative role in society. A college education can change a family for generations, and therefor, is an opportunity out of poverty. Beyond that, your college education should be about developing critical thinking skills and the ability to be able to discern what is true. These higher-level thinking and discernment skills give you the amazing ability to not only be successful in life, but also create positive social change. When you keep all that in mind, an extra hour spent in the library doesn’t seem so bad.

3. Inequality exists in many forms.

While MLK was heading up a movement focused mainly on racial inequality, the trend in recent years is to use our remembrance of MLK to bring attention and change to numerous other inequalities that exist in our society. Colleges and universities offer unique volunteer and service learning (volunteering for class credit) opportunities that are often not available when you are not enrolled in school. These chances to get involved in your community offer a way for you to learn about injustices that perhaps you were ignorant to before. Volunteering and learning about the multiple layers of where you live also helps you develop your own identity in relation to the people you share a community with.

4. Have a dream.

It may sound cheesy, but you should have an idealistic dream. Your college years are an excellent time for envisioning not only what your perfect life would be like when you enter the “real world,” but also what kind of world you want to live in and be a participant of. This time of your life is perfect for “dreaming” because college is a time of suspended animation. You are learning a great deal about yourself, you have an amazing amount of resources and expert knowledge surrounding you, and you are right on verge of entering your adult life. Consider the alternative to dreaming. If you don’t have an ideal of your life and world to aspire to, what will happen to your life and the world you live in?

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