100+ Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes That Are More Relevant Than Ever

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., minister, activist, and prominent leader of the civil rights movement, is remembered today for advancing civil rights through nonviolence. It’s been more than 50 years since he was assassinated in 1968, but many of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes and excerpts from his powerful speeches, sermons, and books are just as relevant (if not more so) today. He spoke wisely about equality, kindness, courage, change, forgiveness, and more – and his beliefs understandably still resonate with many.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday commemorating Dr. King’s birthday, is celebrated on the third Monday of January each year. King’s actual birthday was January 15, 1929. This year, MLK Day is on Monday, January 16, 2023.

From 1955 until his assassination, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate participated in, supported, and led marches and nonviolent demonstrations, including the 1963 March on Washington, where he chanted his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The Lincoln Memorial.

Although many inspirational quotes are attributed to Dr. King, not all of them can be verified – and some are outright false. To honor Dr. King’s legacy and remember his contributions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (and every day), we’ve compiled 100 of MLK’s best quotes and included when he said them. So lets start:

One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.

We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

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.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

We must condemn those who are perpetuating the violence, and not the individuals who engage in the pursuit of their constitutional rights.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.

You must be willing to suffer the anger of the opponent, and yet not return anger. No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must remain calm.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.

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 cannot long survive spiritually separated in a world that is geographically together.

Nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.

We must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.

Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.

Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love…violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

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.

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.

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.

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.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

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.

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.

Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it.

The time is always right to do what is right.

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.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.

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.

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.

No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

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.

I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”

“Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.”

“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

“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.”

“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.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

“One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.”

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“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.”

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 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 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 will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

“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.”

“The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

“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.”

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

“No lie can live forever.”

“I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”

“We must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

“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.”

“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”

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