It's a good day to read his "I Have a Dream" speech – really is amazing when you think of the great social change in this nation that was set in motion by one man with a vision. Here's a great video of the actual event.
It is a testament to the power and effectiveness of Dr. King's movement that, even to those of us who were alive at the time, it seems like it must have been another world where a man had to speak out against such injustice as if it wasn't obvious to the majority of people that segragation, whether by law or by practice, was an outrage.
Sadly, many of the lessons he taught us have already been forgotten, some great quotes:
- 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.
- It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.
- The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
- 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.
- Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
- We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
- The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
- A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
- A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
- One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the Great Society… shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.
- Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
- Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
- Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
- 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.
- The time is always right to do what is right.
- Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
- 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.
Dr. King also had a sense of humor:
- I want to be the white man's brother, not his brother-in-law.
- It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.
Doctor King imagined, over 50 years ago, that the lines in 2020 would still be drawn not only between black and white but between rich and poor as well. He gave a speech in 1967 at Stanford University. It was called “The Other America.” In it, King blasted “large segments of white society” for being “more concerned about tranquillity and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity.”
Who will speak for the downtrodden masses in the 21st Century – how does one represent the bottom 99% when the smallest bit of fame is likely to take the speaker out of their ranks?