Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Love Quotes and Sayings
#1 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963
1. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
#2-4 Loving Your Enemies, Christmas 1957
2. A third reason why we should love our enemies is that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.
3. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
4. First, 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.
#5 Excerpt from The Drum Major Instinct, February 4, 1968
5. … this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody 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 about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity 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. And you can be that servant.
#6 Excerpt from his August 16, 1967 “Where Do We Go From Here” speech
6. And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.
#7 Loving Your Enemies, November 1957
7. Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
#8 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1964
8. 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.
9. Without love, there is no reason to know anyone, for love will in the end connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts.
10. Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service.
Excerpt from Wikipedia: Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States and he is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today. King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King’s efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.
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Sayings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1. A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
2. 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.
3. A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.
#4 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963
4. 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.
#5-6 An Experiment in Love, 1958, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, JR.
5. Nonviolent resistance … avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him.
6. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe.
#7 The Measure of a Man, 1958
7. Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.
8. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
#9 Loving Your Enemies, Christmas 1957
9. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
#10-11 Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958
10. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. (Reference)
11. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action. (Reference)
#12 Speech in Detroit, Michigan, June 23 1963
12. And I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
#13 Rediscovering Lost Values, Sermon delivered at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church, 28 February 1954
13. If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover these precious values: that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.
#14-16 The Quest for Peace and Justice, Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964
14. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.
15. It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.
16. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
#17-18 I Have A Dream, Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., 28 August 1963
17. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.
18. 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.”
#19 I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, 3 April 1968
19. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ “But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'”
#20-21 The Purpose of Education, January-February 1947
20. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.
21. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
#22 “Keep Moving from this Mountain” – Founders Day Address at the Sisters Chapel, Spelman College, 11 April 1960
22. We must keep moving. If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.
#23 Speech in Selma, Alabama on Feb. 12, 1965
23. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
#24 The Most Durable Power, Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 6 November 1956
24. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.
#25-27 Strength to Love, 1963
25. 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.
26. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?
27. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
28. No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.
29. Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.
#30 On Courage
30. And 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.
31. One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them.
#32 Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958
32. Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.
#33 Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, 15 October 1962
33. … I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because that don’t know each other and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.
#34 “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963
34. 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.
#35 Suffering and Faith, 27 April 1960
35. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that 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.
36. Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
#37 The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Second Edition, 2011, Ch. “Community of Man”, p. 3
37. An Individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.
38. If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.
#39 Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam, Speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, 30 April 1967
39. I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
#40 Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, Speech at Riverside Church in New York City, 4 April 1967
40. We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.
41. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.
#42 I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, Speech delivered at Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, 3 April 1968
42. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.
#43 Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, Address at Morehouse College Commencement, 2 June 1959
43. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. Because of our involvement in humanity we must be concerned about every human being.
44. It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.
#45 Paul’s Letter to American Christians, 4 November 1956
45. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.
#46 The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Chapter 31: The Poor People’s Campaign
46. And I said to my little children, “I’m going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of God’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’ t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.
47. You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
#48-49 The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr: Birth of a New Age, December 1955
48. Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.
49. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”
50. A lie cannot live.