One of the most compassionate beings of love was Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 through 1968. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, he led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War.
Here are 21 of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most powerful quotes of all time:
1. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
2. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
3. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
4. “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.”
5. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
6. “The time is always right to do what is right.”
7. “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.”
8. “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.”
9. “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
10. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
11. “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
12. “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.”
13. “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
14. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
15. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
16. “The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.”
17. “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.”
18. “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.”
19. “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
20. “When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.”
21. “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.”
One of the greatest pieces of literature ever written by the great Martin Luther King Jr. that everyone should read is his Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Do you fully understand the idea of ‘race’?
See also: ‘Understanding Race’ by Understanding Compassion and discover what studies, science and history have to say on the interesting subject.