Today we celebrate and remember a man who has lived past his own lifetime. Although his voice was silenced over 40 years ago, he continues to speak today. Dr. Martin Luther King stood for something profound and groundbreaking, not only for the rights and dignity of the African American people, but for global peace and economic justice. Whether it was through was nonviolent direct action campaigns or civil disobedience, King believed that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
He led a movement led by love and justice, and retained a deep sense of dignity despite innumerable atrocities committed against him. Indeed, a spirit of love and hope is characteristic of any of his speeches and writings. He refused to sink to the level of the segregationalists, repaying hate with hate, for nothing would be accomplished by this.
We all have much to learn from Dr. King. With each passing year since his death, a little more of his passion and indignant love is forgotten. Less of his urgent and pressing words are remembered. If we stop to remember him today, let us also open our ears to the message that he gave his life for.
A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.
A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
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.
An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.
At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
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.
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.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.
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.
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.
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.
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
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.
If those words don’t make you burn on the inside, I don’t know what will..
As I look at pages dedicated to the memory of Dr. King, there are still responses left by people today filled with the most awful, grotesque, and foolish hate. I’m sad for those people, for they will never experience the most beautiful kind of love that Dr. King stood for. It seems like misguided people are more likely to stop and leave negative responses than the true and good people are to pause and respond in thankfulness and love. I want to challenge you today to do just that, in honor of Dr. King.
“On March 22, 1956, King celebrates his conviction. He believed it was right to disobey unjust laws. Explaining his buoyant mood, he said, “Ordinarily a person leaving a courtroom with a conviction behind him would wear a solemn face. But I left with a smile. I knew that I was a convicted criminal, but I was proud of my crime.”
From LIFE: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.