During this tumultuous and challenging time, today’s holiday to remember one of history’s honored leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gives a chance to pause and reflect on some of his favorite speeches. Excerpts from addresses of Dr. King through the course of his career can be found engraved in granite at the MLK memorial in Washington, D.C.
We visited there a few years ago. The impact of those words gave a hush of reverence to the area. Today, I remember Dr. King, and ponder his life and his words, in the spirit of hope that the memorial offers to a divided country and world.
A few of Dr. King’s words, surrounding the massive mountain and engraved for posterity in granite, testify to the power of our spirit, through language. Long may the words provide hope for those in the midst of a struggle for justice and equality, until the day when everyone on Earth is valued as an equal member of the worldwide community.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. (Norway 1964)
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. (1963)
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. (Norway 1964)
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. (Alabama 1963)
Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in. (District of Columbia 1959)
I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world. (California 1967)
It is not enough to say, “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not only on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. (California 1967)
Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. (New York 1962)
If we are to have peace on Earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical, rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation, and this means we must develop a world perspective. (Georgia 1967)
We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (District of Columbia 1968)
Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. (1963)
This is not a complete collection of the quotations at the memorial. But it is most of them. One could spend hours there, meditating on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and pondering his legacy which is forever established through the power of his words. Located amidst the awe-inspiring memorials in our nation’s capital, it is fitting to remember this man’s life today, on the holiday declared to honor his life and legacy. And we return to that stone of hope during these difficult times, with renewed anticipation that a corner of our history has been turned and we will look toward renewed progress to uplift every person, and every living thing on Earth, with honor and respect.