On April 4th, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” In this hugely controversial speech where he came out against the war, and against the establishment and his own advisors, Dr. King also came to terms with his conscience. He gave this speech highlighting “the fierce urgency of now.” He came out against escalating militarism, poverty, and racism. What would he say about these same issues today; and about religious extremism, climate change, education, healthcare, water stress, and income inequality. Where that he were here now….

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.”

Dr. King said in this speech: “This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” …“During these days of human travail, we must encourage creative dissenters.” Had he been talking about business leaders and investors, he might have been talking about those who take the long view; those who leverage economic power and the tools of capitalism to enhance prosperity for all. I think Dr. King would have been talking about executives, financiers, innovators and entrepreneurs willing to transform themselves for the sake of right in the long term. I think Dr. King would have had the faith to persevere knowing that good things would come with a legacy of good governance.

Just as Dr. King is known to have struggled with his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, he struggled with the tactics to move the cause forward. His campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice used nonviolent but intentionally confrontational tactics. His stated intent was to “create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” In these tactics, King argued that the crisis of racism was too urgent, and the current system too entrenched to be timid. He spoke against those more devoted to “order” than to justice; those who prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; those who constantly say: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; those who paternalistically believe they can set the timetable for another’s freedom; those who live by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advise waiting for a “more convenient season.” No waiting when one feels the “fierce urgency of now.”

Each month in the Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance & Banking (JSFB), we will offer thoughts on a “Featured Domain,” which is selected from our proprietary “Sustainable Domain Bank.”  The Cornerstone “Sustainable Domain Bank” contains 2,000+ addresses on the Internet, which are an articulation of business processes, business practices and aspirations for a more regenerative form of capitalism. Many of these domain names have the potential to be developed into business plans reflecting a robust interpretation of sustainable capitalism and finance.  In particular, each “Sustainable Domain” captures a principle, or reflects a value inherent in the systematic understanding of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) imperatives facing businesses and the economy today.  Each Domain is intended to facilitate dialogue across functions and sectors of the capital markets; and each is available for collaborative partnership, purchase or transfer should it have particular appeal to Cornerstone clients and colleagues.  

Erika Karp is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Cornerstone Capital Inc.