21 of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Most Powerful Quotes
By John Boone
Photo: Getty Images
Today, the third Monday of the new year, marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day to celebrate the civil rights activist, humanitarian, and revolutionist. With the tragedies of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown so fresh in our collective conscious, today feels extra poignant. Even in Hollywood, the inexcusable snub of important directors of color like Selma’s Ava DuVernay — not to mention the overall lack of diversity in this year’s #OscarsSoWhite — shows that we have more work to do than we’d like to admit.
So today, especially, it’s important to remember the wise words of MLK:
2. “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.”
3. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
5. “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.'”
6. “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
8. "Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest."
9. "Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism."
11. “I'll tell you, I've seen the lightning flash. I've heard the thunder roll. I felt sin-breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on.”
12. “I often feel like saying, when I hear the question 'People aren't ready,' that it's like telling a person who is trying to swim, 'Don't jump in that water until you learn how to swim.' When actually you will never learn how to swim until you get in the water.”
14. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
15. “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for.”
17. “On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' And Vanity comes along and 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 he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”
18. “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”
19. “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. 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. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
And of course...
20. “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.”
Now, check out Jessica Chastain’s rousing call for diversity in Hollywood: