Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) The Man and his Mission

Martin Luther King was a man of peace, who sought radical transformation.  The power of his
personality and the impact of his words on the civil rights movement cannot be overstated. Dr. King lived in an age when the Ku Klux Klan instilled terror in sections of the South and even into Missouri.  He lived when drinking fountains, schools, buses, housing and employment were highly segregated.  His influence in the civil rights movement extended through the mid 1950’s until his death in 1968.  He changed the national dialogue on issues of race while steadfastly maintaining a commitment to non-violence and the importance of personal integrity.

His famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial includes these words, “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.” It concludes, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi’s message of nonviolence, Dr. King constantly reminded his followers that love is better than hate, that character and integrity are the measure of individuals and society.  Following are some of the quotes that exemplify his message:

Love over hate:

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

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

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

 “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”

Non-violence

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

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

 “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

 The Importance of Social Commitment

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right”

 “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.”

 Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.

Due to his accomplishments, Dr. King received Time Magazine’s 1963Man of the Year” award and the 1964 Nobel Peace prize.  In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law making Dr. King’s birthday a holiday.  It has been observed since 1986.

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