Editorial: MLK’s words still inspiring today

Published 11:11 am Monday, January 15, 2024

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The legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can be described in one word.


The words from the civil rights leader are still relevant today. They will be relevant tomorrow and the next day, and all days thereafter.

Like most ministers, he was a good public speaker. That helped.

But unlike most people, he wasn’t satisfied with the status quo – a status quo that for the life of our country – put people of color on the back burner. Dr. King knew something had to change. The color of one’s skin doesn’t matter in the eyes of our Lord, so it shouldn’t to us either. Right?

Let’s hope so.

As we read some of King’s quotes, think about the words. Nothing else. No skin color. No political party. No agenda. Just the words.

“One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.”

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

“I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.”

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”

“Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”

“We must condemn those who are perpetuating the violence, and not the individuals who engage in the pursuit of their constitutional rights.”

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“Nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice.”

“The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

“Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love…violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“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.”

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

“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.”

“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.”

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”


There are dozens more quotes, all of them worth our study.

In honor of MLK, let’s all do something good for someone very different from us this year. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive, just a little something to make their lives brighter.

It will make you feel better.

And like Dr. King suggests, it will help make our community, nation and world a bit more pleasant place in which to live.

Who can argue with that?

– Mike Barnhardt