This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday comes on the doorstep of great change for the United States. It is always historic when a new president takes the oath of office, but after the prolonged and controversial 2016 presidential campaign, Dr. King’s work aimed at bringing a divided nation closer together is more relevant and important than ever.

One way this may be done comes from the article Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in this month’s The Atlantic. In the article, President Barack Obama spoke about the power of telling someone “Hey man, you count.” If this unprecedented presidential election cycle taught us one thing, it’s that everyone wants to count, whether they live in the inner cities or rural small towns of America.

At Teak Media + Communication, we are privileged to work with many nonprofits and socially responsible companies who find new ways to show people they count:

  • College Bound Dorchester supports former gang members and other challenged youth, no matter what they did in their past, how many times they take their HiSET exams before they pass, or how long it takes for them to earn the community college degree that will earn them a living wage.
  • The Care Center was recently praised by Senator Elizabeth Warren for 20 years of work helping young single mothers in Holyoke, MA improve their lives through liberal arts education.
  •  Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology is closing the skills gap by reaching out to many students who express themselves better with their hands than they do with their voices, allowing them to earn college degrees in some of the fastest growing STEM fields in our economy.
  • Lawrence Public Schools used charter and traditional methods to take the high school’s graduation rate from less than 50 percent to 78 percent in a city with a high poverty rate and an 80 percent Hispanic population.
  • Playworks Massachusetts has helped 35,000 students at 75 Massachusetts elementary schools benefit from physical activities during recess.
  •  Nellie Mae Education Foundation supports the work of community groups in six New England cities aimed at empowering parents and students to demand equal access to a quality high school education that will prepare students for success.
  • Salute American Vodka shows veterans they count by donating a dollar of every bottle they sell to organizations that support veterans and other American heroes.
  • The New England Aquarium has extensive programs for teens to do internships, community service, and climate change education work with their peers. They spend the summer and school year doing work within the Aquarium as well as in surrounding communities.
  • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum swings its doors open wide to its local neighborhood, seeking input for upcoming exhibitions, free days, and a longstanding and effective program in the local schools within walking distance to teach young people over many years about visual learning.

In his “I Have a Dream” speech , Dr. King refused to believe there are “insufficient funds in the vaults of opportunity.” He reminds us that being a person who counts isn’t predetermined by your race, income, religion, or gender, but by the content of your character.
As we head into this new chapter of American history, we must make sure to hear all the voices of our nation with an open mind and work together to solve the problems that face us all.