There’s a solid reason we celebrate Martin Luther King Day every year, and it doesn’t just have to do with getting the day off if you work for the government. These 25 MLK quotes will remind you why we hold the day in observance:
1. True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.
2. I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
3. A riot is the language of the unheard.
4. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
5. Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present. America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most element of greatness — justice.
6. Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
7. I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom.
8. I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.
9. If a city has a 30% Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30% of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas.
10. …Life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.
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. They are complementary.
12. A nation or civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
13. Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
14. 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.
15. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
16. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
17. One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
18. I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.
19. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
20. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
21. Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.
22. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. 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.
23. The time is always right to do what’s right.
24. In every age and every generation, men have envisioned a promised land. Some may have envisioned it with the wrong ideology, with the wrong philosophical presupposition. But men in every generation thought in terms of some promised land.
25. 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.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 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. I have a dream today.