Dreams and Dissertations

August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Some eight years previous, he delivered his final dissertation to the faculty of Boston University…

King’s rousing speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial inspired millions with his dream of equal rights. A dream can be a powerful thing. Its ability to cast a vision. Its ability to motivate.

In fact, the Civil rights Act of 1964 was signed into law barely ten months after King’s speech. Now, the signing of one bill certainly didn’t fulfill King’s dream, and, in many ways, we still have a long way to go. But, his dream led to his speeches, and his speeches inspired millions, and those millions helped change the cultural norms in this country.

What are your dreams for your life after graduation?

What opportunities will your doctoral degree allow you pursue?

What change will you enact in the world as a doctor?

Your dreams, your goals, your visions for yourself are vital to the success of your dissertation. Long and hard is the road you must follow to complete your dissertation journey. Many travelers are lost along the way. But those with a keen vision for their destination are much more likely to be successful.

In addition to your dreams for your future life and the impact you will make, you need a plan to get there. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was meant to inspire, but it did not point the way. It did not instruct. That’s OK. His goal was not to write policy but to change the hearts and minds of men. The crowds listening to his speech did not enact laws, though some of them would. They did not all enforce laws, though some did. The crowds who listened were inspired. They believed. That was King’s goal.

Your goal is both to be inspired and motivated and to actually get your dissertation done! Action requires planning.

A fun fact about Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” — He didn’t mention Paul Tillich. Fun Fact #2: He also didn’t mention Henry Nelson Weiman.

In fact, I couldn’t fine reference to Tillich or Weiman in transcripts of any of King’s public speeches.

Who were Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Weiman? Well, they were two noted biblical scholars…and the subjects of Dr. King’s dissertation!

Let that sink in for a moment. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a very public figure. He spoke to large crowds around the country. He was generally introduced to those crowds as Dr. King. And, yet virtually no one knows anything about his dissertation.

The information is out there. Just like any other dissertation, it is published and accessible, particularly to those in the academic community. But, no one talks about Dr. King’s dissertation because that was not his life’s work.

Nor should it be yours.

Make sure that your dissertation is feasible, that you have access to the resources necessary to complete your study. Make sure that your dissertation is acceptable to your committee, that they approve of the topic and structure of the project. And, then just get it done!

Don’t worry about solving the world’s problems with your dissertation. Dr. King didn’t. I didn’t. I doubt that one in a hundred doctoral graduates did. But, I bet that a huge percentage of terminal ABDs tried!

Understand that as important as dreams are, keeping your feet on the ground is just as important. Dream big about your future, big keep your dissertation small. Get it done as soon as possible so that you can move on to bigger and better things!

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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