Who are the people we consider great? Some people in history have the word “great” in their names, such as Alexander the Great. Others, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are considered great by their leadership and achievements. When we think of great athletes, here in Southern California the names Fernando Valenzuela, Magic Johnson and Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky come to mind.

One of the greatest Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King talked about greatness best during his “Drum Major Instinct” speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia in February 1968. He proclaimed, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Greatness is indeed achievable. It’s not to be confused with fame. There are many famous people who can hardly be considered great. But in Dr. King’s definition of the word, any of us can be great.

Think about all the “great” people you’ve encountered in your life. That teacher who went above and beyond in the classroom. The coach who sacrificed his or her weekends. Volunteers at the local food bank. The scout leader or den mother who helped others achieve merit badges. A kindly neighbor who lent a hand when needed.  All the moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles who were there for you along the way. The list is large.

Greatness is achievable. As we honor the late Dr. King this year, let us all consider ways in which we can be great by reaching out beyond ourselves and having the heart to serve others.