Living the Dream
You’ll often hear me say that America is not just a place. Instead, she’s an idea. Although many people listen to me, not many really hear what I’m saying. America, as we know her, was founded with progress and achievement in mind. She’s a testament to the inherently resilient nature of humanity and our undying will to improve our condition and way of life — not for ourselves only, but also for each succeeding generation.
With all of her flaws and dark histories, America is still the most incredible place on the planet to be born, live, and exercise the opportunity for growth and change. Dr. King understood this intimately. That’s why he gave his life in the pursuit of helping her realize her full potential. Being a prophetic visionary of epic proportions, Dr. King saw her beauty and wanted to preserve the powerful symbol of hope and uplift that America had come to symbolize to people around the world. He knew that America is the product of a dream in which ALL citizens should be welcome to participate.
While the dream was in and of itself good, it was also fractured and fundamentally flawed. Capitalism had exploited those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. The rich were getting richer, while the poor were only becoming poorer. Our nation’s citizens were not allowed equal access to the American dream for reasons as shallow as skin color and ethnic origin. As this new idea of equality drew global prominence, Dr. King used his right as a human being as well as his privilege as an American citizen to call for the nation to wake up from its slumber, realize its shortcomings, and collectively begin to dream again, with the truth of love centered at its core. Then, and only then, could we all participate and make the dream a reality.
As a dreamer who embodied the heart and soul of America, Dr. King offered an upgraded and improved version of the American dream, which called for equity, economic opportunity, financial literacy, and empowerment to be offered to all, without prejudice. He didn’t just talk about the dream; he lived it.
Toward the end of Dr. King’s life he began to redirect his attention from civil rights to what I call “silver rights,” or economic freedom. His commitment to a vision of financial wellness and generational wealth for Black families is part of the impetus that led me to embark on two different, yet similar, journeys that have affected me greatly and are celebrating major milestones this year. First, Dr. King’s work is a major inspiration to me launching Operation HOPE nearly thirty years ago. Both then and now, we forged ahead with the mission of eradicating poverty through financial literacy. The second was my acquisition of The Promise Homes Company, which helps empower families to begin their generational wealth building journey with the most important purchase a person can make — real estate.
Today, I am living out my purpose, actualizing the dreams of my forefathers, realizing the promise of America, and proving that her original ideas are not without merit. Because of Dr. King’s enduring legacy, I’m afforded the opportunity to actively participate in the economy, and my company, The Promise Homes Company, celebrates the historic close on a $200 million institutional debt facility from the global investment management firm Barings, making it one of the ten largest capital raises for a Black-owned company over the last decade. These types of investments and wealth creation opportunities allow me to pay it forward and positively affect the world around me in order to bend the universe’s moral arc towards justice.
I am blessed and honored to follow in his footsteps, lead with moral integrity, and demonstrate that you can “Do well by doing good.”
When we embrace and live out the dream, as Dr. King did– and apply his vision for moral leadership and equity to the American dream– we come closer to creating a better world, cultivating a more just society, and empowering lasting change in our communities.
Dare to live the dream, and begin to live your own.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and may we all continue to embrace and embody his spirit of radical change and generosity– one day at a time.
John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE