Today we reflect on the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an extraordinary leader in American history. Dr. King devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice and economic opportunity through service to others. He once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we asked some of our employees why they feel compelled to give back and support others. Check out their answers below and, wherever you live, we hope you will join your neighbors and local leaders in tackling community challenges and helping realize Dr. King’s dream.
Service is a powerful tool for strengthening our communities. As CEO of Gresham Smith, I strive to lead by example and implement a culture that advocates for our employees to serve our clients and engage with civic and charitable organizations in the communities which we live and work. Our firm’s vision states that we will add value to our people, our clients and the world. Adding value is achieved by our personal actions and behavior with others, whether it is a friend or an unfamiliar face, supporting a colleague or a person unknown, providing solutions or by offering some of your precious time with a civic or charitable organization in the community. So, the question remains valid for each of us to answer and ask our friends and colleagues – what are we doing to help others?
Chairman and CEO
Martin Luther King’s question, “What are you doing for others?” resonates very strongly with me. All of the opportunities that my family and I have today are in part due to all that others have done for me. As a son of immigrants, I can’t help thinking back to all the people that helped my mom stay employed while she raised three boys by herself. The teachers that stayed late to help me learn English. My college roommates, many more fortunate than myself, that shared their food with me when I ran out of mine. Mentors, including many here at Gresham Smith, that stuck with me when others might have given up. The combination of these experiences are what’s shaped my resolve for “doing for others” in the form of volunteering at schools, speaking to at-risk youths, seeking leadership positions in Boards and Advisory committees in organizations that will have an impact in my community. Most importantly, I hope to instill in my 8 year old son the same commitment to “doing for others” that’s led to us having all of the opportunities that we have today.
Ray Wong, AIA, MBA, EDAC, LEED GA
The old adage of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” has always held a lot of weight with me. I actually have a strong drive to do this and it pushes me to want to make a difference by being part of the solutions to problems that don’t necessarily affect me but are part of a larger picture.
Valarie Franklin, AIA, NOMA
My mom donated much of her time representing women and children survivors of domestic violence, and was honored by the Virginia State Bar with the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award for that work. That’s just one of many examples of the values my parents instilled in me: compassion, empathy, generosity. I hope my 5-year-old daughter is absorbing those values when our family takes food to the homebound members of our church or prepares care packages for children in our community, or when my wife or I volunteer our time to nonprofit causes we care about. In these moments and experiences, may she begin to understand that it is almost always mutually beneficial to intentionally do good.
Senior Marketing Coordinator
I feel strongly about being involved in the community that you live in and finding ways to help others. For me, I think giving back builds a stronger community and a bond with the people around you.
(Editor’s note: Krystal received Gresham Smith’s 2018 Community Impact Award. Learn more about her story here.)
Krystal Anderson, AIA
I’m lucky to have had the privilege of completing service work in communities across the globe – from North Carolina to Sri Lanka – and in every instance, have walked away feeling that I had received more from the experience than those who I was meant to serve. There are few things better than connecting with a community and learning from others. Everyone needs support in one way or another, and I believe we are at our strongest when we give what we have in order to better understand what we may be missing.
Early in my career I worked for a company that supported nonprofit organizations in the local community and I was inspired by the people I worked with. Their hearts were so big and the passion they had for helping others was infectious. This jump started my enthusiasm for volunteering, but it has been sustained by the feeling that I get after spending a couple hours in the community helping others. It’s always amazing to see how with seemingly minimal effort, we have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life, and them in ours. It may be cliché but I do think if everyone found just one thing/cause/group to give back to with either their time or donations, not only would our communities benefit from it, but I think we all would.