34 Quotes From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Labor and Leadership

Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On this national holiday, we celebrate and remember the minister and civil rights leader’s teachings, achievements and vision for the future.

Per the King Center:

During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives us occasion to reflect on his ideas and teachings on labor, leadership, equity and hope for the future of the United States and humankind. Dr. King’s teachings are just as relevant today as they were during the time of his leadership in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Reflecting on his words and deeds on this day can provide some real comfort and inspiration. And, they can help motivate us to take action to promote justice and equality in the future, no matter what we do for a living.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes on labor and leadership

Martin Luther King Monument

  1. “Tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
  2. “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.”
  3. “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
  4. “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
  5. “The ultimately 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. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others”
  6. “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  7. “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.”
  8. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
  9. “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  10. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
  11. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
  12. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  13. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
  14. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him that it is right.”
  15. “We were here before the mighty words of the Declaration of Independence were etched across the pages of history. Our forebears labored without wages. They made cotton ‘king’. And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to thrive and develop. If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail… Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”
  16. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  17. “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.”
  18. “We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”
  19. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
  20. “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
  21. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
  22. “No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”
  23. “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”
  24. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
  25. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
  26. “We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”
  27. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
  28. “Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating that absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
  29. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
  30. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”
  31. “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
  32. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
  33. “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.”
  34. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Sources: Entrepreneur, Inc., Reader’s Digest, Business Insider, ThoughtCo., Newsweek, HuffPost.

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