Northwestern Medicine

Life's Most Urgent and Persistent Question: What Are You Doing for Others?

Northwestern Memorial Hospital January 16, 2012

Metropolitan Family Services CEO Ricardo Estrada headlines Northwestern Memorial Hospital's 33rd Annual Commemorative Humanitarian Awards honoring the legacy of The-Late Dr. King

CHICAGO, IL – For a life that ended much too soon, the thought-provoking prose of The-Late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is in abundance. Dr. King’s legacy boasts one of the most expansive inventories of famous quotes—lifted from landmark speeches and fiery sermons over the course of the now 44 years that have succeeded his passing. One such quote: “Life’s most urgent and persistent question: what are you doing for others?” was the centerpiece, last week, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s 33rd Annual Commemorative Humanitarian Awards Honoring the life of Dr. King. The program featured the humble eloquence of keynote speaker Ricardo Estrada, president and CEO of Chicago’s Metropolitan Family Services. Metropolitan provides a broad range of outreach services for families in need including programs that help pregnant teens and new mothers to those that assist people recovering from mental illnesses or abuse.

“My life has turned out to be what it is because it was shaped by people who cared about service to humanity more than they cared about personal ambition,” said Estrada to audiences totaling about 400 attendees between two programs. “I am who I am because I learned from ministers, missionaries, coaches, youth workers, teachers, doctors, parents, friends and colleagues who cared more about others than themselves. To be clear, there is really nothing special about me other than I have been blessed with opportunities to serve that most people never receive.”

Estrada shared highlights of his personal journeys on humanitarian excursions. He also shared the account of the tragic loss of close friend who especially enjoyed Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon. Like Dr. King, Estrada recalls his friend as embodying what it was to be selfless and to serve others.

Estrada’s comments anchored the hospital’s annual program celebrating the volunteer and community service efforts of employees who are nominated by their peers and chosen as award recipients by committee vote. Every year, the program features performances by The Bernice E. Lavin Children's Care Center Choir and The Regina Puckett-Kent Gospel Choir of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This year’s recipients included Margaret Konieczny, RN, BSN, CMSRN, a staff nurse; Jamila McClinton, senior associate in business development and planning; and Cora Palmer, RN-BC, BSN, CMSRN, also a staff nurse. The women were honored and recognized for their volunteer accomplishments serving others.

• Konieczny spends hours each month on-call as a rape crisis advocate for Rape Victim Advocates. She also performs community service through her role at the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN) as its community outreach coordinator.

• McClinton is the founder and creator of the Ladies of Virtue, a youth organization that teaches young women lessons in self-esteem, etiquette and offers guidance on pathways to higher education. She also devotes time as a volunteer for the YMCA’s Black and Latino Achievers program. 

• Palmer is the founder of the Chicago chapter for AMSN, and was instrumental in bringing the organization to greater Chicago. Outside of her administrative responsibilities with the chapter, Palmer spends considerable time volunteering in community service projects include soup kitchens, books to women in prison, night ministry and organizing donations for coat drives.

Estrada commended all three women for assuming the role of service and using what Dr. King called their “Drum Major Instinct” for good.

“…So you want to be first? You want to be great? You want to be important? You want to be significant?” Estrada recited from King’s famous Drum Major sermon that his friend so dearly loved. “Well, you ought to be [first]. Don’t give up that instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right [and] don’t distort it or pervert it. Keep feeling the need to be important. Keep feeling the need to be first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.

“…If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace.”

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