A legacy: It's something that many people seek to leave behind no matter the path they walk during their time on Earth. It takes, however, a special person to tirelessly work to advocate for change and seek equal rights for all human beings. One such man? Dr. Martin Luther King. And as Monday's national holiday to celebrate King approaches, you might want to lean on some inspiration or give a shoutout to the civil rights leader with these motivating Martin Luther King Jr. quotes to share.
You're probably familiar with his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, in which he says, "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."
Those words are, perhaps, the ones people most often attribute to King and with good reason: The beautifully inspiring speech is one that is still necessary to reflect upon today, especially during a time when movements like #BlackLivesMatter are prevalent, and conversations about sexual assault, gender equality, and same sex marriage are crucial.
But King also had just a few more inspiring things to say, permanently solidifying his legacy as a visionary and change-maker. Here are some of my favorites.
1"The time is always right to do what is right."
In October 1964, King visited Oberlin College & Conservatory in Ohio, his second public appearance after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This speech, "The Future of Integration," came on the heels of a year filled with riots in six American cities and the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, noted History.com. He added, "It is true that behavior cannot be legislated, and legislation cannot make you love me, but legislation can restrain you from lynching me, and I think that is kind of important."
Of course, the lesson of doing what is right is one we can all get behind, whether you are advocating for political change or speaking to your children.
2"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
King said these words to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957, reported HuffPost. The civil rights leader could have never foreseen the recent 2016 presidential election, which proved to be a rather divisive time in United States history. But it also led to something else — people stepping out to help people. Whether it was getting behind the causes that were closest to their hearts or raising money for hurricane victims, Americans took King's words to the streets and got to work.
3"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
When Time unveiled its Person of the Year issue this past January, readers were elated to see the magazine decided to honor "The Silence Breakers," the female voices behind the #MeToo movement. Women in America, it turns out, are done being quiet, a message that was made clear at this past weekend's Golden Globes ceremonies from Oprah's incredible speech to the #WhyWeWearBlack initiative.
4"We are not makers of history. We are made by history."
King wrote this line in his 1963 book, Strength to Love. Around that same time he was TIME magazine's 1963 Man of the Year and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. This is one that I always refer back to when I hear people say things like, "Well, I won't be around to see it" when referring to the effects of global warming or something of that nature. We are creating the future for our children and beyond — and that certainly matters to me.
5"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
Whether you subscribe to "love thy neighbor" or "the sisterhood of motherhood," this one's for you. King's words offer the ultimate prescription for empathy, encouraging listeners to walk a mile in another person's shoes, no matter where you are from.
6"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."
My mom always reminds me — even at 33 — that anger is never the way to find my way to a solution. I'm not always perfect at it, but I do love this quote to remind me that a peaceful approach is the best way to achieve a goal, whether it's mending a friendship or battling it out with my toddler.
7"The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important."
An eloquent way of saying it's about quality not quantity, King said these words during his 1964 interview with TIME. "One time I did have a gun in Montgomery," he told the magazine. "I don't know why I got it in the first place. I sat down with Coretta one night and we talked about it. I pointed out that as a leader of a nonviolent movement, I had no right to have a gun, so I got rid of it. The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important. If you are cut down in a movement that is designed to save the soul of a nation, then no other death could be more redemptive."
8"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
I have this quote on my desk as a reminder about the writing I do in regards to my experience with postpartum depression and generalized anxiety disorder. A big part of my takeaway for readers is that there are tiny bits of light in the midst of even our darkest moments. That sometimes, in fact, it's what is waiting at the end of a long road — impossible as it may seem.
9"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
This quote falls in the same vein as Erin Hanson's “And you ask ‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” (One of my absolute favorites.) The idea behind King's words, of course, is that the unknown should not keep you from taking a leap of faith.
10"In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Here I am again with wisdom from my mom, but she's a good one. When I was a child, I told her about a classmate who was being bullied and she said, "Did you say something or tell an adult?" I told her that, no, I hadn't. She then said that the person who stands by while someone else faces hurtful words, or even harm, speaks the loudest. Her words have always stuck with me, and to this day I keep it in mind as I move forward in life, especially when teaching my daughter about advocacy and friendship. This quote is the perfect reminder.
11"We must accept finite disappointment, but must never lose infinite hope."
As I already mentioned, Oprah spoke of the importance of staying hopeful in the midst of trying times — specifically those related to gender equality and sexual assault — when she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award at this past weekend's Golden Globes. "I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights," she said during her speech, mirroring King's sentiment of maintaining faith in the future.
12"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
It turns out King may have been the original believer in the "all you need is love" M.O. And the truth is, whether it's a fight with your best friend or a trying day with your toddler, it's going to be love that will see you through. As our present-day revolutionary Oprah would say, that is "what I know for sure."
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