I Have a Dream ... for Corporate Society
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, January 17, in honor of the life of Dr. King.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the most famous and influential speeches in the history of our nation. I was not yet alive when he delivered the speech; however, Dr. King's courage, actions and especially his dream have profoundly influenced my life and the nation that I am honored to live in.
Below, I have adapted Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech to the world of corporate society, focusing on tensions that one might find in organizations. These corporate tensions are of course no comparison to the racial tensions that existed during Dr. King's lifetime. Still, I was struck by how applicable Dr. King's speech is to these far less significant tensions.
Please understand, that, although I have included a bit of humor to lighten up the adaptation below, I mean absolutely no disrespect to Dr. King's original speech. Rather, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I encourage you to read or, better yet, listen or watch Dr. King's original
"I Have a Dream" speech and briefly reflect on the profound influence he had on our nation. Links to both are above as well as at the end of the column.
Please note: Bold-italicized words are mine and part of my adaptation. All other words are from Dr. King's original speech.
"I Have a Dream ... for Corporate Society"
Many years ago, a great chief executive officer, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the job requisition for the first corporate risk manager.
This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to thousands of corporate risk-minded citizens who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But years later, the risk manager still is not free. Years later, the life of the risk manager is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Years later, the risk manager lives in
a lonely cube of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material information. Years later, the risk manager is still languished in the corners of corporate society and finds himself an exile in his own land?
... Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of corporate justice. Now is the time to lift corporate society from the quicksands of corporate injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of the corporations' employees?
... We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back ...
... And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day corporate society will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all employees are created equal."
I have a dream that one day in the break rooms of corporate society, the employees of the risk department and the employees of the strategy department will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the company's strategy war
room, a room sweltering with the heat of behavioral bias, sweltering with the heat of averages and assumptions, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my risk colleagues will one day work in a corporate culture where they will not be judged by the name of their department but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in the depths of corporate strategy, with its vicious biases, with its leader having his lips dripping with the words of "strategic" and "SWAG"--one day right there junior risk analysts and junior risk managers will be able to join hands with junior financial analysts and junior strategic analysts as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every uncertainty shall be exalted, and every average and point estimate shall be made into a distribution, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the shareholder and enterprise value shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the corporate society with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our corporate culture into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to executive committee presentations together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of corporate employees will be able to sing with new meaning:
My corporate society '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 corporate society is to be a great citizen, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Research.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of Finance and Accounting.
Let freedom ring from the heightening cubicles of Risk Management.
Let freedom ring from the confidential files of Human Resources.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of Sales and Marketing.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from the case files of Legal and Compliance.
Let freedom ring from the servers of Information Technology.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Strategy.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every team and every function, from every division and every department, we will be able to speed up that day when all of our employees, risk managers and strategists, accountants and sales people, technologists and lawyers, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank shareholders, we are free at last
Thank you, Dr. King, for your inspiration.
Links to Dr. King's original
"I Have a Dream" speech here, or read it in its original form here.
DAVID M. WONG is director of enterprise risk management at CME Group, the world's largest and most diverse derivatives exchange
January 11, 2011
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