Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement inspiring a generation with his stirring lectures, speeches and dialogues. To honor his memory, Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a federal holiday in 1983 and was observed for the first time three years later. It is celebrated on the third Monday in January, to mark King’s birthday, January 15.
In 1994, legislation was passed to create Martin Luther King Day of Service – to encourage citizens to use the federal holiday as an opportunity to give back to their communities. Considered a "day on, not a day off" individuals are encouraged to work towards King's vision of a "Beloved Community."
“As I reflect on the legacy of my father, the greatest aspect is his legacy of peace. He reminded us that ‘the choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence; it is between nonviolence or nonexistence,’” Bernice A. King, wrote about her father in the Huffington Post, adding that this year commemorates the 50 year anniversary since King received the Nobel Peace Prize, and the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
"Dr. King's philosophy of non-violence is more relevant, I believe, than it was 10 years ago," King told Reuters referencing the number of school shootings and increasingly violent movies, television shows and video games. "America has an enormous appetite for violence. I don't know why we have such an affinity for that, but I do know it has to stop," she said.
King was just 35 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest man to be selected for the prestigious honor. At the time, he announced he would give the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement. King was assassinated four years later in Memphis, Tennessee.
For those wishing to pay tribute to King’s message and legacy, below are 25 inspirational quotes from the civil rights leader:
“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.”
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“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.”
On Helping Others
“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.”
“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.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land.”
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“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.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”