There was certainly no popular movement of the 20th century as successful as the civil rights movement, and King was its icon. Listen to the words of his most famous speech, delivered at the March on Washington in 1963, and you’ll find the key.

Martin Luther King was a radical, an agitator for swift and drastic change. Yet all that he spoke then and there was rooted deep in the soil of the American consciousness. He didn’t agitate for a new bank to be built; he asked that an old promissory note be cashed in. He didn’t declare a new set of principles; he harped on the principles upon which this nation was built. He didn’t demand that America downsize itself; he asked that it embrace the greatness that awaited it—if it would only live up to the declared goals of its founding fathers.

The dream that enraptured King spoke to the roots of America. And from those roots, that dream sprouted.

The dream that enraptured King spoke to the roots of America. He spoke of this nation’s original covenant with its own people, and its faith in the Bible. And so, from those roots that dream sprouted, grew and flourished. Today, nobody bats an eyelid when black, white and all colors of children play together in the park. What was then a dream has today become the groundwork of a global society.

King proved that there is no better catalyst of social change than the tradition that forms the bedrock of this society. Take a look: No other mass movement has enjoyed such rapid, widespread success. The environmental movement launched not long after, and yours truly enthusiastically jumped in as it took off. Yet it’s still sputtering away, struggling to make a single orbit.

As the oceans become hotter each day, more species disappear and the evidence mounts that a real crisis is around the corner, the governments we elect provide lip-service at best, and we accede to their decisions in apathy. The environmental movement has yet to grab the heart of America.

Why? Because rather than build on the values of the people, it chose to knock them down. Rather than encourage a nation to become great, it chose to propel people with guilt for overconsumption and fear of a still-impending cataclysm.

One environmentalist attempted to inspire me with this: The blue whale destroys more life in a single day than any other creature on the planet. How many? Forty million krills per day! What an amazing organism! Therefore, we must save the blue whale!

Impress them with data, scare them with doomsday stories and pump up the guilt. After a while, those strategies don’t pay off anymore.

The environmental movement could have fueled itself with values already embedded deep within our consciousness, such as the story of Adam and Eve placed in the garden “to serve it and to protect it.” Or just the idea that there is a Creator of this beautiful planet. It could have spoken sweetly in the ear of middle America, telling them that they are a beautiful nation, blessed by G‑d with a magnificent land to cherish and preserve.

The environmental movement could have spoken sweetly in the ear of middle America, telling them that they are a beautiful nation, blessed by G‑d.

But instead, they chose to alienate the church-goers, the believers and the traditionalists. And that has only served to backfire against them.

To push a boulder, your feet must first find solid ground. Otherwise, rather than you pushing the boulder forward, you will only push yourself back.

To build a tall and mighty structure, you must first dig deep into the ground. Otherwise, the first storm will topple your structure to the ground.

To grow a life that provides lasting value to the world, you must ensure that life has deep roots in rich soil, where noble ancestors lie and whose ideals live on.

To move a society forward, you need to take a walk back to its origin, to the fresh water spring from which its rivers flow, and then to dig yet deeper to release those living waters, so that they will burst through every barrier and flood the landscape. So that “one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of G‑d shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”1