MLK QUOTES: The Best Things Dr. Martin Luther King Ever Said

— 58 quotes worth reading.   

Action and Accountability

The time is always right to do the right thing.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.

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.

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.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

On Brotherhoodkingphoto

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

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.

On Character

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.

Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.

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.

On Choice

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

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.

On Dreams and Goals

Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.

No person has the right to rain on your dreams.

On Ends and Means

We will never have peace in the world, until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from the means, because the means represent the idea in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you cannot reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

On Faith, Religion and Science

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

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.

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.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.

On Freedom

And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old negro spiritual, “Free at last!  Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

On the Law, Justice and Civil Disobedience

I submit that 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.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

Government action is not the whole answer to the present crisis, but it is an important partial answer.  Morals cannot be legislated but behavior can be regulated.  The law cannot make an employer love me but it can keep him from refusing to hire me because of the color of my skin.”

On Love and Hate

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.

I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: 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 will still love you…. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

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. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. 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.

On Ignorance

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

On Optimism

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

On Progress

All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.

Human progress is neither automatic or inevitable.  Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability.  Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle, the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

On Purpose

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.

No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.

If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree

On Service

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

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 your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.

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.

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?”

On Society and Civilization

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.

On Truth

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

On Violence

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.

Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.

On Work

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.