In this time of chaos, fear, and doubt, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words bring calm, clarity, and unity.
January 15 should have been King’s 92nd birthday and Americans celebrated his legacy and what his words of wisdom mean now during the 35th annual MLK Day of Celebration on Monday, January 18. The pastor and humanitarian’s life was cut short when he was just 39 years old: he was shot and killed on April 4, 1968.
You can find some of MLK’s most important and poignant quotes, collected by Bored Panda, below. Upvote the ones that resonated the most with you and the ones that you think are especially important in these confusing times. Become a part of the discussion and share your thoughts about King’s ideas and his legacy in the comments.
"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."
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
"If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving."
A very recent documentary, MLK/FBI, released by director Sam Pollard and based on newly declassified files shows how the US government surveilled and harassed King: from wiretaps to suggestions that he should kill himself.
Meanwhile, King’s oldest son, Martin Luther King III, told CNN that his father would be disappointed with the US if he were still alive. “My father always believed in the people of our nation. Certainly, he would be greatly disappointed in how we have chosen to conduct ourselves at this particular moment,” he said. “He understood we are a United States of America, not a divided state of America, and he would be telling us we must turn to each other, not turn on each other.”
Bored Panda spoke about the fight to end racism in the United States with positivity blogger and writer Shola Richards. According to Richards, the deaths of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Breonna Taylor on March 13, and others “irrevocably jolted awake” many people to the reality of what life in the US is like for black people. However, he pointed out that real change is going to be a long journey that will not happen overnight or even in a single year.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
"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 time is always right to do what is right."
“My hope is that as many people as possible will continue to educate themselves on systemic racism by reading informative books, like ‘How to be an Anti-Racist’ by Ibram Kendi or ‘White Fragility’ by Robin DiAngelo. I hope that as many people as possible will continue to stand up to racism and show up as strong allies, despite some of their friends and family rolling their eyes at them for doing so,” Richards explained his hopes that the movement against systemic racism doesn’t fizzle out but continues through people educating themselves.
In Richards’ opinion, “people of all races” protesting together in large numbers is the most effective way to “demand meaningful change” in the country.
“I hope that people will continue to have important discussions about race, even though those discussions can be uncomfortable and difficult. Most of all, I hope that people won’t get tired, become discouraged, and quit on this long journey to reshape America. This is how we must fight racism, and as with anything meaningful, it’s going to require a lot of work.” Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s worth the effort for a world with more humanity.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
"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."
“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.”
"We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, both here and abroad."
"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."
"I have decided to stick with love. ... Hate is too great a burden to bear."
"The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society."
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
"The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to live intensively and to think critically. ... Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education."
"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
"Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter."
"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."
"We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope."
"If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live."
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
"Let no man pull you so low as to hate him."
"Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude."
"The ultimate tragedy ... was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people."
"There comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right."
"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will."
"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."
“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”
"Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. 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."
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