April 4th, 2018 | Updated on June 29th, 2022
Fifty years ago, on April 4, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated . In the decades since, his name has become synonymous with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Five decades after the passing of King, his wisdom, his words, and his compassion are needed now more than ever. Let’s recall this great man’s nuggets of wisdom and some of the most inspiring and insightful quotes which we have taken from King’s speeches, sermons and essays.
1. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
2. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
3. 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.
4. Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
5. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.
6. There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
7. Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
8. 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.
9. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.
10. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
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11. 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.
12. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.
13. There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.
14. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.
15. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character that is the goal of true education.
16. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. Every man lives in two realms: the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live.
20. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
21. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.
22. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
23. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
24. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
25. We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
26. Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.
27. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
28. It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.
29. Live like Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow.
30. We can’t answer King’s assassination with violence. That would be the worst tribute we could pay him.
31. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
32. I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.
33. Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
34. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.
35. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
36. 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
37. 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.
38. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
39. The time is always right to do what is right.
40. I have decided to stick with love. … Hate is too great a burden to bear.
41. We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
42. If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
43. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
44. 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.
45. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter.
46. I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.
47. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.
48. That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
49. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.
50. The ultimate tragedy … was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people.
51. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.
52. There comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.
53. Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.
Watch Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have A Dream Speech