At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, Dr. King was assassinated.
Today is a federal holiday commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986. The holiday is now observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15.
According to syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, the "common denominator" in all that Dr. King fought for was "simply a demand that America do better by its most vulnerable: the poor, the racial minorities, the unhoused, the uneducated, the left out, left behind and forgotten, the ones the Bible calls 'the least of these.'
As we celebrate his legacy, almost 44 years after his death, I want to share the following quotes from Dr. King:
--"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
--"I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."
--"If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you to go on in spite of all."
--"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"
--"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood."
--"It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important."
--"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."
--"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
--"A right delayed is a right denied."
--"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."
--"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."
--"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
--"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."
--"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
--"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."
--"A lie cannot live."
--"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem."
--"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."
--"Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see."
[Taken with permission from Monday Morning in North Georgia, Jan. 16, 2012. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]