“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
The words of Dr. King were meant to inspire us to grow beyond hatred, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
…beyond violence, “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
…beyond racism, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…”
Speaking in clear, unambiguous language, King’s words remain as powerful and compelling as ever.
On leadership: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
Persistence: “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”
Power: “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.”
American Rhetoric.com lists the top 100 speeches by Americans. Among the words of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, Margaret Sanger, Elie Wiesel, and others, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream,” speech stands at the top of the list.
If I were to stitch together Dr. King’s words from several speeches into one message for us today, it might be these:
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends…. Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness… 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.
“There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think… Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…
“If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control…
“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear… We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
“The time is always right to do what is right.”