New Memoir is Fulfillment of the American Dream

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Former assistant secretary of labor shares how meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. shaped his life.

David George Ball

“The dream inspired by King led me in a completely unexpected direction. While assistant secretary of labor I got out a road map for 401(k) plans, which was described in The New York Times as “The most significant thing to affect the pension industry."

In 1959, Martin Luther King Jr. stepped onto the campus of Yale for the first time at the behest of David George Ball. A recently immigrated student, Ball took interest in King’s leadership of a boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala. and asked him to speak at Yale. That meeting changed Ball’s life forever leading him into public service and eventually to assistant secretary of labor under former President George H.W. Bush.

A Marked Heart is Ball’s remarkable memoir that begins in the midst of rationing and bombing in wartime England, continues through his journey to America at 17-years-old, and eventually onto the campuses of America’s most elite universities and beyond. Under the watchful eye of his strict mother and minister father, Ball sought to carve his own path. His religious upbringing guided his life, but his desire to be independent guided his decisions.

At the insistence of his parents, Ball came to America to take the pastors’ course at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Later as a scholarship student at Yale, he invited the relatively unknown minister, Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at a lecture series he’d organized. Inspired by King’s example and interest in politics, Ball decided he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. His upbringing shaped his journey and the brief encounter with Martin Luther King Jr. shaped his heart.

“The dream inspired by King led me in a completely unexpected direction. While assistant secretary of labor I got out a road map for the 401(k) plans, which was described in The New York Times as “the most significant thing to affect the pension industry in years,” said Ball.

His educational and professional successes would be tested when his first wife committed suicide leaving Ball to raise their three young children. A Marked Heart is Ball’s story about finding his way in a new country and about overcoming extraordinary obstacles to achieve great success. Ball’s story is the ultimate American story.

About the author:
David George Ball grew up Gloucester, England during World War II and came to America in 1954 to take the pastors’ course at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Later, he enrolled at Yale as a scholarship student and an encounter with Martin Luther King changed the course of his life. He never became a minister, but vowed to help make the world a better place as a lawyer. After Columbia Law School, Ball worked for a Wall Street law firm where he became interested in helping workers who changed jobs and were unable to take their pensions with them. In 1981, as an executive at AMAX, Inc. he championed the first 401(k) plan adopted by a large industrial company. When President George H. W. Bush nominated him as assistant secretary of labor, David fulfilled his dream by getting out a road map to open up the revolutionary 401(k) program. Today, more than 70 million Americans have 401(k) plans.                    

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