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Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of a great man and prophet of God, let us all hold our dreams up for the world to see and our hearts to embrace. Here are a few of King’s pearls of wisdom to help remind you of the power of a vision from God. We start with the top 31 and then move on to over 200 others.

Did you know that one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s advisers had recommended that he leave out the “I have a dream” phrase for his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963? Luckily, King ignored that recommendation.

That speech and quotes from many others have inspired us and given us the courage to act upon our own dreams.

The main thing is Dr. King’s commitment to Jesus, our Master and Messiah. One King bowing down to the King!

  1. “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
  2. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
  3. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  4. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
  5. “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
  6. “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.”
  7. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”
  8. “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
  9. “That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”
  10. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
  11. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  12. “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
  13. “Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.”
  14. “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.”
  15. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
  16. “I have decided to stick to love … Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
  17. “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. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
  18. “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
  19. “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”
  20. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
  21. “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.”
  22. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  23. We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
  24. “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.”
  25. “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”
  26. “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”
  27. “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  28. “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.”
  29. “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.”
  30. “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. 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.”
  31. “No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

Here is a more comprehensive list:

  • We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. 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.
  • There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
  • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  • Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
  • 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.
  • Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Many of our inner conflicts are rooted in hate. This is why psychiatrists say, “Love or perish.” Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  • Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
  • Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.
  • Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love.
  • Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
  • 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.
  • Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
  • Without love, there is no reason to know anyone, for love will in the end connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts.
  • He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
  • In some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
  • One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love.
  • What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to the disciplined heights of tough-mindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hard-heartedness?
  • Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.
  • I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. To return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love.
  • And I say to you, I have also decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love, I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate.
  • We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will. And we shall continue to love you.
  • Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friend and enemy; it is directed toward both.
  • If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.
  • Since crime often grows out of a sense of futility and despair, Negro parents must be urged to give their children the love, attention, and sense of belonging that a segregated society deprives them of.
  • That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.
  • Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.
  • I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.
  • You know, a lot of people don’t love themselves. And they go through life with deep and haunting emotional conflicts. So the length of life means that you must love yourself. And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself.
  • Love yourself, and that means rational and healthy self-interest. You are commanded to do that. That’s the length of life. Then follow that: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You are commanded to do that. That’s the breadth of life.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  • Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
  • Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.
  • Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
  • That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
  • We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
  • Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.
  • One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
  • If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.
  • We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.
  • There is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity.
  • So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.
  • Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.
  • Put yourself in a state of mind where you say to yourself, ‘Here is an opportunity for me to celebrate like never before, my own power, my own ability to get myself to do whatever is necessary.
  • We must substitute courage for caution.
  • Let us be those creative dissenters who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny. To a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness.
  • We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.
  • I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.
  • The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.
  • The time is always right, to do what’s right.
  • Even if they try to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for. And if a person has not found something to die for, that person isn’t fit to live!
  • One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.
  • If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
  • Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying double the price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative is ours. The initiative to stop must be ours.
  • And I won’t rest, I will face intimidation, and everything else, along with these other stalwart fighters for democracy and for citizenship. We don’t mind it, so long as justice comes out of it.
  • There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
  • Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro.
  • For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation — and yet out of bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
  • Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. Shaking Hands
  • Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.
  • Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
  • Every man lives in two realms: the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live.
  • It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.
  • Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.
  • Like anybody, I would like to have a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.
  • The end of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, but to do the will of God, come what may.
  • If physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian.
  • I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. That is what I had to do. That is what every Christian has to do.
  • They tell me that in America you have within Protestantism more than two hundred and fifty six denominations. The tragedy is not so much that you have such a multiplicity of denominations, but that most of them are warring against each other with a claim to absolute truth. This narrow sectarianism is destroying the unity of the Body of Christ. You must come to see that God is neither a Baptist nor a Methodist; He is neither a Presbyterian nor a Episcopalian. God is bigger than all of our denominations. If you are to be true witnesses for Christ, you must come to see that America.
  • We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village streets or in the city jails, they daringly proclaimed the good news of the gospel.
  • The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.
  • In contrast to ethical relativism, Christianity sets forth a system of absolute moral values and affirms that God has placed within the very structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable.
  • Like the early Christians, we must move into a sometimes hostile world armed with the revolutionary gospel of Jesus Christ. With this powerful gospel we shall boldly challenge the status quo.”
  • The confidence that God is mindful of the individual is of tremendous value in dealing with the disease of fear, for it gives us a sense of worth, of belonging, and of at homeness in the universe.
  • I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And 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.
  • It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.
  • When I took up the cross I recognized it’s meaning. The cross is something that you bear, and ultimately, that you die on.
  • Worship at its best is a social experience with people of all levels of life coming together to realize their oneness and unity under God. Whenever the church, consciously or unconsciously caters to one class it loses the spiritual force of the “whosoever will, let him come”, doctrine and is in danger of becoming a little more than a social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.
  • God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. History has proven time and time again that unmerited suffering is redemptive.
  • My call to the ministry was not a miraculous or supernatural something. On the contrary it was an inner urge calling me to serve humanity.
  • The greatness of our God lies in the fact that He is both tough minded and tender hearted. … God expresses His tough mindedness in His justice and wrath and His tenderheartedness in His love and grace. … On the one hand, God is a God of justice who punished Israel for her wayward deeds, and on the other hand, He is a forgiving father whose heart was filled with unutterable joy when the prodigal son returned home.
  • The belief that God will do everything for man is as untenable as the belief that man can do everything for himself. It, too, is based on a lack of faith. We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.
  • God is able to give you the power to endure that which cannot be changed… Why be anxious? Come what may, God is able.
  • If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
  • God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.
  • This is the glory of our religion: that when man decides to rise up from his mistakes, from his sin, from his evil, there is a loving God saying, “Come home, I still love you.”
  • The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
  • The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being.
  • Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
  • The cross may mean the death of your popularity. It may mean the death of your bridge to the White House. It may mean the death of a foundation grant. It may cut your budget down a little, but take up your cross and just bear it. And that is the way I have decided to go.
  • So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent — and often even vocal — sanction of things as they are.
  • I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal.
  • Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.
  • This is what God needs today: Men and women who will ask, “What will happen to humanity if I don’t help? What will happen to the civil rights movement if I don’t participate? What will happen to my city if I don’t vote? What will happen to the sick if I don’t visit them?” This is how God judges people in the final analysis.
  • And I’m here to tell you today that we need God. Modern man may know a great deal, but his knowledge does not eliminate God.
  • But over and over again I can still hear Sister Pollard’s words: “God’s going to take care of you.” So today I can face any man and any woman with my feet solidly placed on the ground and my head in the air because I know that when you are right, God will fight your battle.
  • Yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunder roll. I’ve felt sin-breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. And I go on in believing that. Reach out and find the breadth of life.
  • This is the God of the universe. And if you believe in him and worship him, something will happen in your life. You will smile when others around you are crying. This is the power of God.
  • Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
  • But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war.
  • The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
  • We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
  • A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  • We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
  • The time is always right to do what is right.
  • Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.
  • We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
  • The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.
  • I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  • Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
  • Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control.
  • Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
  • 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.
  • The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
  • A right delayed is a right denied.
  • When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
  • The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.
  • As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.
  • 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.
  • As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.
  • And a man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
  • Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.
  • Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality.
  • Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
  • Unless you have found something in life to live for that is more important to you than your own life, you will always be a slave. For all another man needs to do is threaten to take your life to get you to do his bidding.
  • Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
  • I always contended that we as a race must not seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, but to create a moral balance in society where democracy and brotherhood would be reality for all men.
  • And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.
  • I want to say that in all of our actions we must stick together. Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve.
  • Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you fell that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.
  • 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.
  • But you know in life we’re called upon to do this. A Ford car trying to be a Cadillac is absurd, but if a Ford will accept itself as a Ford, it can do many things that a Cadillac could never do: it can get in parking spaces that a Cadillac can never get in. And in life some of us are Fords and some of us are Cadillacs.
  • Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.
  • I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. 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.
  • In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  • The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
  • Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.
  • But I am also concerned about our moral uprightness and the health of our souls. Therefore I must oppose any attempt to gain our freedom by the methods of malice, hate, and violence that have characterized our oppressors.
  • At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.
  • Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
  • Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
  • As I said, I want to open by saying that I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.
  • A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
  • Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.
  • Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
  • All my adult life I have deplored violence and war as instruments for achieving solutions to mankind’s problems. I am firmly committed to the creative power of nonviolence as the force which is capable of winning lasting and meaningful brotherhood and peace.
  • The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.
  • The non-violent resistor not only avoids external, physical violence, but he avoids internal violence of spirit. He not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he refuses to hate him. And he stands with understanding, goodwill at all times
  • I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.
  • So often I had castigated those who by silence or inaction condoned and thereby cooperated with the evils of racial injustice… I had to therefore speak out if I was to erase my name from the bombs which fall over North or South Vietnam, from the canisters of napalm. The time had come — indeed it was past due — when I had to disavow and disassociate myself from those who in the name of peace burn, maim, and kill.
  • Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.
  • Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.
  • The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.
  • Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace.
  • Please be peaceful. We believe in law and order. We are not advocating violence, I want you to love your enemies… for what we are doing is right, what we are doing is just — and God is with us.
  • Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.
  • Violence is not only impractical but immoral.
  • [Nonviolence] is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil. It is evil that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil.
  • This is the unusual thing about nonviolence — nobody is defeated, everybody shares in the victory.
  • The time had come- indeed it was past due- when I had to disavow and dissociate myself from those who in the name of peace burn, maim, and kill.
  • Nonviolence is power, but it is the right and good use of power.
  • I am convinced that even violent temperaments can be channeled through nonviolent discipline, if they can act constructively and express through an effective channel their very legitimate anger.
  • We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
  • Violence never really deals with the basic evil of the situation. Violence may murder the murderer, but it doesn’t murder murder. Violence may murder the liar, but it doesn’t murder lie; it doesn’t establish truth. Violence may even murder the dishonest man, but it doesn’t murder dishonesty. Violence may go to the point of murdering the hater, but it doesn’t murder hate. It may increase hate. It is always a descending spiral leading nowhere. This is the ultimate weakness of violence: It multiplies evil and violence in the universe. It doesn’t solve any problems.
  • We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface hidden tension that is already alive.
  • I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.
  • I cannot make myself believe that God wanted me to hate. I’m tired of violence, I’ve seen too much of it. I’ve seen such hate on the faces of too many sheriffs in the South. And I’m not going to let my oppressor dictate to me what method I must use. Our oppressors have used violence. Our oppressors have used hatred. Our oppressors have used rifles and guns. I’m not going to stoop down to their level. I want to rise to a higher level. We have a power that can’t be found in Molotov cocktails.”
  • You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.
  • It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.
  • The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.
  • We are here, we are here this evening because we’re tired now. And I want to say that we are not here advocating violence. We have never done that. I want it to be known throughout Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people. We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That’s all.
  • In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; selfpurification; and direct action.
  • Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.
  • Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and halftruths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
  • In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.
  • Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension… We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion, before it can be cured.
  • 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.
  • This way of nonviolence has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale and at the same time it works on his conscience and he does not know how to handle it.
  • Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they’re worth dying for; and if a man has not discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live. And this is what the nonviolent movement does.
  • It is either nonviolence or nonexistence and the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension in nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation.
  • I’m more convinced than ever before that violence can not solve the problems of the world. Violence is both impractical and immoral. This is why I’ve tried in my little way to teach it in our struggle for racial justice that I’ve come to see and I believe with all my heart that we can not make the great moral contribution to our nation that we should make, and we can not win the battle for justice if we stoop to the point of using violence in our struggle.
  • And so we must rise up and beat our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks and nations must not rise up against nations, neither must they study war anymore.
  • There is a powerful motivation when a suppressed people enlist in an army that marches under the banners of nonviolence.
  • A nonviolent army has a magnificent universal quality. To join an army that trains its adherents in the methods of violence, you must be of a certain age. But in Birmingham, some of the most valued foot soldiers were youngsters ranging from elementary to teenage high school and college students.
  • For acceptance in the armies that maim and kill, one must be physically sound, possessed of straight limbs and accurate vision. But in Birmingham, the lame and the halt and the crippled could and did join up.
  • In the nonviolent army, there is room for everyone who wants to join up. There is no color distinction. There is no examination, no pledge, except that, as a soldier in the armies of violence is expected to inspect his carbine and keep it clean, nonviolent soldiers are called upon to examine their greatest weapons: their heart, their conscience, their courage and sense of justice.
  • True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.
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