Celebration of Dr. King. Exploring His Drum Major Instinct speech

A Celebration of Dr. King: Exploring His Drum Major Instinct Speech

The ‘drum major instinct’ describes the human desire for recognition, status, and power. In his "Drum Major Instinct" sermon (February 4, 1968 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA), Dr. King argued that this instinct can lead people to engage in harmful behavior, such as seeking to dominate others and accumulate wealth/material possessions at the expense of others.

Dr. King also said that it's possible to channel the drum major instinct in positive ways, such as using it to serve others and work towards the greater good. He suggested it is important to recognize and understand the drum major instinct, and to strive to use it in ways that promote justice, equality, and peace.

Here are 3 ways Martin Luther King Jr's "Drum Major Instinct" speech is still highly relevant today:

  • The speech addresses the human desire for recognition and status, which is still a prevalent issue in today's society. People continue to struggle with the desire to be seen as important and successful, and this can lead to harmful behavior such as discrimination, inequality, and greed. 
  •  Dr. King's message of channeling the drum major instinct towards serving others and working towards the greater good is still important today. With many challenges facing society, such as poverty, inequality, and climate change, it is important that individuals and communities come together to make a positive impact. 
  •  Dr. King's emphasis on the importance of understanding and overcoming the negative effects of the drum major instinct also still resonates today. As individuals, it is important to be aware of the ways in which our actions and choices may be influenced by this instinct, and to strive to make choices that are in line with our values. 

to lead is to serve

Take Action: Be A Drum Major for Humanity

One of the key ways to be a drum major for humanity is by dedicating oneself to serving others. This can include volunteering in one's community, supporting charitable organizations, or working to promote social justice and equality. It's important to note that being a drum major is a lifelong commitment to work towards the betterment of humanity.


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  • Angel Lewis

    A bit about me. I was born and raised in rural North Carolina, and currently call Virginia home. My passion for writing was awakened while attending Guilford College (Greensboro, NC). In 2021, I published my first book 'My Self-Care Plan: 12 Monthly Strategies That Will Transform Your Life'. It inspires readers to make self-care a priority during the next 12 months so that they can live their best life possible. The spring of 2022 saw the release of 'Ready. Set. Fly!' my debut children’s book that encourages self-belief and perseverance.

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5 thoughts on “A Celebration of Dr. King: Exploring His Drum Major Instinct Speech

  1. Thank you for posting this. I had the privilege of traveling to the deep South back in October to learn about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. It was an honor to hear from others who marched with him, and heartbreaking to learn of others who lost their lives for the greater cause. We need the drum majors to lead the way in peaceful protest honoring our values and fighting for what’s right.

  2. I had never heard of the “Drum Major Instinct.” The picture of the drumm major with ‘To lead is to serve’ helped me understand. Also, I listened to Dr. King’s speech, thank you for sharing. I also recall a mentor of mine teaching me how little it mattered what my credentials were, what mattered was who I was, and how I showed up!

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