Martin Luther King Jr. (born 15 January 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, United States – died 4 April 1968, Memphis, Tennessee, United States) was an American Baptist minister and activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude. People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other. Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing. We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important. True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity. A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live. We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear. Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’
Martin Luther King Jr.
When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestant and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Martin Luther King Jr.
All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ … Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.
Martin Luther King Jr. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?' The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
Martin Luther King Jr.
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop… I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.
Martin Luther King Jr. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. You will change your mind; You will change your looks; You will change your smile, laugh, and ways but no matter what you change, you will always be you. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others. We are not makers of history. We are made by history. We must substitute courage for caution. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another. It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace. In some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. A lie cannot live. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind. I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good. We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighers did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. Mankind must put and end to war or war will put an end to mankind. What is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy.