I have a dream...
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Vision, Wisdom, and Teachings

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the best known proponent of nonviolent social change in America. King rejected the use of violence in the U.S. civil rights movement because he believed that violence as a way of achieving justice was both immoral and impractical. He believed that the "ends" did not justify the "means" and that violent means were ultimately counterproductive. King spoke out strongly against racism, classism, militarism and war. He believed deeply that Jesus' admonition to "love one's enemies" was absolutely necessary for building the Beloved Community. King believed that humankind could overcome division and inequalities and that justice and peace could prevail on earth.

The Power of God

“So I say to you, seek God and discover Him and make Him a power in your life. Without Him, all of our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest nights. Without Him, life is a meaningless drama with the decisive scenes missing. But with Him we are able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope. With Him we are able to rise from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy. St Augustine was right - we were made for God and we will be restless until we find rest in Him.”

The Dream

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 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. I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

The Beloved Community

“With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”

Concern for All Humanity

“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. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”

The Futility of Violence

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

Nonviolent Resistance

“There comes a time when a moral man can't obey a law which his conscience tells him is unjust. And the important thing is that when he does that, he willingly accepts the penalty because if he refuses to accept the penalty, then he becomes reckless and he becomes an anarchist. There were those individuals in every age and generation who were willing to say: 'I will be obedient to a higher law.' It is important to see that there are times when a manmade law is out of harmony with the moral law of the universe.”

Love of Enemies

“Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, the command to love one's enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist; he is the practical realist.”

How Do We Love Our Enemies?

“First, 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.”

“Second, we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is. An element of goodness may be found even in our worst enemy. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know God's image is ineffably etched in his being. Then we love our enemies by realizing that they are not totally bad and they are not beyond the reach of God's redemptive love.”

“Third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy, but to win his friendship and understanding.”

Why Should We Love Our Enemies?

“The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says, 'Love your enemies,' he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

“Another reason we must love our enemies is that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Modern psychology recognizes what Jesus taught centuries ago: hate divides the personality and love, in an amazing and inexorable way, unites it.”

“A third reason why we should love our enemies is that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.”

Ends and Means

“We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making and the end in process. Ultimately, you can't reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the ends represent the tree.”

Sacredness of Human Life

“Now let me say that the next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God.”

War and Peace

“If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survival, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war". It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the eradication of war, but on the affirmation of peace.”