Martin Luther King Day is observed this year on Monday, Jan. 18 with a federal holiday, but the day, originally designated in 1994, is considered a national day of service. The country observes the day as a King Day of Service and encourages citizens to make a difference in their own communities and help address the pressing needs created by poverty, economic insecurity and job loss.

On Jan. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring King, urging citizens to treat the day as a “day on, not a day off” by participating in service projects and civic engagement.

What are you doing on Monday, Jan. 18 to observe Martin Luther King Day?

The following words were written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at various times in his life. Best remembered as a spokesman for the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, King was a persuasive orator and a man of faith whose belief in doing what is right stirred others to have courage in the face of almost impossible challenges. Inspired by the words and acts of Mohandas K. Gandhi, King was, above all, a man of peace.

These statements King made at various times and in various places have been arranged here to give the reader a broad sense of his philosophy and belief.

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“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

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“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

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“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve, for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

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“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”


“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.”


“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”


“Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.”


“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”


“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”


“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But … the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”


“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 else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”


“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”


“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.’


“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.”


“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”


“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”


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


“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”


“A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.”


“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”


“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars … Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”


“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”


“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”


“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”


“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 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.”


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”


“The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”


“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be … The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”


“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Quotations used here were found on Web sites at mlkonline.net, thinkexist.com, brainyquote.com and quotationspage.com.