Martin Luther King Jr. gave the sermon titled “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart” in Montgomery, Alabama at the end of August, 1959. His advice from more than a half-century ago has broad and timely applicability for today’s many divisions. Legendary Mike Singletary recently said “if you are an American, you belong to me,” meaning we have to rise above the right vs. left or white vs. black divide in our country and realize we are on the same team. Hence Dr. King’s call for a people with tough minds but tender hearts to move towards common ground and secure our progress. 

Having a tough mind not only means working hard, but also recognizing change, struggle, and adversity as tools to sharpen minds and mold hearts.  Dr. King believed soft minds fear change and reject ideas that do not fit our often narrow narrative. He noted Galileo was rejected for believing the earth revolved around the sun because it did not conform to orthodoxy at the time. His point was tough minds can handle discourse in society that allows for change. 

In business and in life the best course of action is rarely one that does not include compassion for others and serving their needs. We live in a day of cold rationality and serious self-interest, but as we observe Black History Month and celebrate achievements of African-Americans throughout U.S. history, I hope that we will allow that history to also enlighten our future. Utah is a place of opportunity and we seek more diversity to enrich the individual, spiritual, and collective tapestry here. One does not need to look far for inspiration, take James Jackson’s new book Black Utah: Stories from a Thriving Community as exhibit A.  

We are a nation, state, and community in need of common ground. Utah is fortunate to have the best zip codes for opportunity, upward mobility, and escape from intergenerational poverty. The Salt Lake Chamber is working to mitigate the deleterious effects in our society as we work together toward equality, justice and eventually broader prosperity. Our future depends on modeling tough minds and tender hearts that will allow for dissent while keeping us cemented as one nation striving for progress.