Finite Disappointment, Infinite Hope – Martin Luther King, Jr.  


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

Two months before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, he discussed the struggle for civil rights and said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

This year as we celebrate Dr. King’s life and extraordinary achievements, these words have additional resonance.  

They remind us that perfidy, narcissism, and callousness, which have defined this president and reached their apogee on January 6th, are finite. 

That the hope of democracy and trust placed in Americans of all political stripes to choose decency and truth at the ballot box was not misplaced. 

That driven by principles rather than personality, most would find the courage to do what was right. Both Democrats and key Republicans stood up for the truth and against the tyranny of election falsehoods. 

And, as fitting for a message delivered in similarly dark times, that a nation was willing to embark on a new path toward addressing the systemic racism that continues to bedevil this Republic.  

Dr. King’s words also offer inspiration to get us through the pandemic. 

While the “disappointments” of COVID-19 have been deadly, and of a scale that is hard to comprehend, we now know they are finite. 

Vaccines and the growing pace of immunization provide reasons for the infinite hope of a better future. One in which we have come to appreciate each other, families, and the value of living life to the fullest while we are blessed with it.

That “we must accept finite disappointments” are words to bear in mind for the coming days and challenges ahead.  

I started this year with an article for CommPRO, “Finding Reasons to be Cheerful,” in which I wrote that during this dark winter it was important to find reasons for optimism. Days later the Capitol was invaded by the mob. The specter of continued violence looms large and the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise.        

The power of the idea that “we must never lose infinite hope” is that despite the inevitable challenges and difficulties we will face as a country, as professionals and as individuals, if we have hope in our hearts for a better future, we will be able get through tough times on the journey toward it.

In the coming days and months, we should not allow ourselves to be mired in the darkness of recrimination, revenge or repudiation of those we disagree with. We cannot allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity or fear.       

Our responsibility is to carry forward Dr. King’s legacy. We must not lose sight of the promise of infinite hope. With its shining light to guide us, we will overcome finite disappointments.        

About the Author: Simon Erskine Locke is CEO of communications agency and professional search and services platform, CommunicationsMatch™. His is a regular contributor to and vice president of the Foreign Press Association.