Martin Luther King Jr.A Dash Well Lived
“I have a dream.” With those four words from his famous speech, Martin Luther King Jr. defined his life’s work. He lived his Dash striving for a day when all people would live in harmony and walk side by side, hand in hand, no matter their race, religion or economic status. Dr. King fought injustice at every turn, promoted peace and nonviolence, and helped facilitate the passage of the Civil Rights Act which originally covered race, but since has been expanded to include gender, disabilities and more.
Dr. King didn’t fight his battles with violence, but rather with love, compassion and the power of his words and actions. Perhaps no singular person has significantly changed the social barriers of a race of people than Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s dash was only 39 years long, from January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968. Just two months before he was assassinated, MLK Jr. spoke about how he’d like to be remembered at his funeral. An excerpt from his remarks:
“I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody… 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.”
Considering it’s been nearly 50 years since his death, and the continuing impact he has on young and old of all races and backgrounds, it can be said without question he’s being remembered as he wanted to be remembered. He lived his Dash well.
His words are frequently quoted as inspiration for all who seek justice, who choose kindness over spite, words over violence, and love over hate. Below, we’ve compiled some of his most famous quotes. Read them and you’ll get a picture of just how focused he was in his commitment to his life’s calling, his dream. Think about your life’s dream, your Dash, and how you’d like to be remembered. What will they say about you?
ON MAKING A DIFFERENCE
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
ON GROWTH & CHANGE
“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.”
“No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
“The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
ON HAPPINESS & PEACE
“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”