While I did not intend to write two posts on Martin Luther King Jr. today, a friend just passed on a letter United CEO Oscar Munoz sent to employees concerning Dr. King. I cannot help but to share and comment on it.
The letter, in its entirety–
Fifty years ago, in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took the podium at Ebenezer Baptist Church to deliver one of his most famous speeches, declaring, “All life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact.”
As we observe this holiday honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King, I believe all of us at United ought to feel the force of this message in everything we do. We feel it as a company of 86,000 people, representing every race and religion, background and belief, origin and orientation. We feel it in the countless ways that people across the world depend on each of us to get them to their work, friends and family safely and on time. We feel it as a team who, at our most basic level, are committed to uniting this small planet of ours more closely and bringing people together in a common effort.
A global airline like ours simply cannot exist except in the kind of interrelated world that Dr. King spoke of and suffered to bring about. All of us, of every color and from every corner of the world, are heirs to his vision. And with each flight we take, we strengthen the fiber of that single garment of destiny he spoke of, which binds us all as fellow human beings and people of goodwill. I hope you feel the different ways in which you honor Dr. King’s message and memory in all the things you do to keep us flying: the courtesy you show to all our customers and fellow employees; the empathy you show to those in need in your communities; and the basic optimism that lies at the heart of a company dedicated to keeping the world open, tolerant, connected and diverse.
In memory of Dr. King,
I appreciate this letter. Having now met and spoke to Oscar, when he says, “And with each flight we take, we strengthen the fiber of that single garment of destiny he spoke of, which binds us all as fellow human beings and people of goodwill,” I believe that is more than puffery.
America’s racial division has not healed — wounds are still bleeding. But look at a company like United — with a workforce truly as diverse as Oscar states — and we can at least be heartened that every day 86,000 people from all walks of life come together to make an airline run. It is rare for one person to change the world and if that is our goal, we probably betray an ego that makes us unfit to achieve it. But when we do our part to treat everyone with dignity, to judge people by the content of their character, we do our part to make this world more livable for all.