Today we are sharing 15 of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s most powerful quotes to celebrate his birthday. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as a critical figure in the American Civil rights movement. A pioneering historical Black figure and a prominent leader. He has impacted our world and lives forever—his impact is felt daily as we continue to navigate the fight for racial equality. His impactful and notable speech “I Have a Dream” from 1963 is one that I return to often. I find the strength those words provide because truth, power, and wisdom still hold today.
It is said that we should stay in the present. But in many ways, our present day is distorted and aimless. And so I believe we need to return to the wisdom of those who came before and fought for us to be where we are today. We need to use that wisdom as guidance to stand for something in unity.
And so today, as we celebrate the man who earned a noble prize in 1964 and fought for justice through peaceful protest. As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday today and as we get ready to celebrate Black History month, we should find our way back into History—to harness the strength, courage, and wisdom to move toward a better future.
Here are 15 of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most powerful quotes.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
From his 1963 book, Strength to Love.
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”
From his 1967 “Where Do We Go From Here?” address.
“If you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving.”
From his April 1960 address at Spellman College.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
From his book Strength to Love.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
From his 1962 speech at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City.
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
From his 1956 “The Most Durable Power Sermon.
True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
From his 1957 book Stride Toward Freedom
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
From his 1957 speech in Montgomery, Alabama.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
From his “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” sermon.
“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”
From the 2002 Coretta Scott King-edited book, In My Own Words.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
From A Gift of Love.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”
From his 1963 “Love in Action” sermon.
“You know, a lot of people don’t love themselves. And they go through life with deep and haunting emotional conflicts. So the length of life means that you must love yourself. And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself.”
From his 1967 “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” sermon.
“The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”
From his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech
“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.”
May you find your truth, strength, and courage to stand for something.