On Sunday, January 20, 2013, Rey David Santiago, 18, stepped up to the microphone in a public school auditorium in his hometown of Madera, Calif., and spoke from the heart – el corazón. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Santiago had been selected to speak to school officials and members of the community about leadership and his dreams. “The theme of my speech was ‘Dreams of Today’s Students and Leaders of Tomorrow,’” said Santiago, a senior at Madera County Independent Academy. “I talked about my personal dreams that started when I was young – for Mexican and immigrant students, no matter what the circumstances, to try and to not give up. They must not let their dreams fade away, because dreams are what push everything forward,” adds Santiago, who moved with his family to California from Oaxaca, Mexico, when he was eight, and plans to go to college next year to study engineering technology.
A Better Tomorrow
On January 21, King’s birthday, the nation celebrates the life and legacy of the 1960s civil rights leader, whose inspiring “I Have a Dream” speech about a country free of racial divide still resonates with students like Santiago. In his podcast, “Leadership Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” author Michael Hyatt says he believes that the “I Have a Dream” speech offers several key insights into what it means to be a great leader. For instance, he notes, great leaders engage the heart, refuse to settle and paint a vivid picture of a better tomorrow.
So as the nation pays tribute to a great leader – on a day that also happens to be the presidential inauguration celebration for Barack Obama, America’s top leader – Knowledge@Wharton High School asked students from around the U.S., many of who are involved in the National Youth Leadership Council, a nonprofit that promotes service learning in schools, how they define leadership. Here are their insights:
“Leadership means being actively involved in your community and causes that are dear to your heart. It means inspiring others to be motivated to do something and to accomplish a goal that they have. I will be going to college next year at St. Edwards University in Austin, Tex., and I plan to major in global studies. I want to then go on to medical school, become a surgeon and eventually go to third world countries and do pro bono surgeries [for people who can’t afford them].”
Haley Holliday, 17, senior, Atascocita High School, Humble, Tex.
“A leader has to be charismatic and has to inspire people to follow him. He also has to be confident in the way that he can’t be afraid to share what he is thinking or feeling. He should be determined to stay on his path.
Sujay Rao, 15, sophomore, Eden Praire High School, Eden Praire, Minn.
“Being a good leader is having people want to follow you rather than forcing people to follow you. You also need to carry yourself in a way that people want to carry themselves similarly.”
Berkley Cohn, 17, senior, The Galloway School, Atlanta, Georgia
Kristopher Brown, 18, senior, Lincoln Charter School, Lincolnton, North Carolina
Mallory Keller, 17, senior, Belton High School, Belton, Missouri
How do you define leadership? Do you agree or disagree with any of these students’ ideas and insights?
In your opinion, can anyone be a great leader? Why or why not?
Are you a good leader? If so, why? In what specific ways do you develop your leadership skills?