As Coretta Scott King wrote in the introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love, “Love, truth, and the courage to do what is right should be our own guideposts on this lifelong journey. Martin Luther King, Jr., showed us the way; he showed us the Dream.” He sure did! The entirety of Dr. King’s speeches and activism embodies love, truth, and the courage to do what is right. It’s a radical vision of ridding the world of what he identified as the triple evils of poverty, racism, and war—which we still have to work very hard to make a reality. Whether it be in dark times or times of progress, the passion of his words and actions inspires us to keep going in our fight for social change. We at Beacon have the honor of publishing his speeches. In honor of his birthday, here’s a rundown of what we’ve featured on the Broadside so that, as Coretta Scott King put it, we can respond with full hearts.
Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.
“You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.”
“And the other thing is we’ve got to come to see that however much we’re misunderstood or criticized for taking a stand for justice or for peace, we must do it anyway. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.”
“Now let me say that the next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and goodwill toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God. And so when we say ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ we’re really saying that human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields of the world.”
“Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth, and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you are nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth. And always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”
“This is no time for romantic illusions and empty philosophical debates about freedom. This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program that will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. So far, this has only been offered by the nonviolent movement. Without recognizing this we will end up with solutions that don’t solve, answers that don’t answer, and explanations that don’t explain.”
“The key significance of the student movement lies in the fact that from its inception, everywhere, it has combined direct action [and] nonviolence. This quality has given it the extraordinary power and discipline which every thinking person observes. It has discredited the adversary, who knows how to deal with force but is bewildered and panicky in the face of the new techniques. Time will reveal that the students are learning lessons not contained in their textbooks. Hundreds have already been expelled, fined, imprisoned, and brutalized, and the numbers continue to grow. But with the punishments, something more is growing.”