4 Martin Luther King Quotes that are Especially Poignant Today

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While noted for his advancement of racial justice in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should also be recognized as a man whose wisdom transcended the race dialogue and spread into many areas of civil society — perhaps some of which were underlying issues for racism’s existence. King spoke of racial equality, but his overall narrative called for noble reform to issues like education, true justice, and conscience.

 

King’s overarching philosophy comes as no surprise considering the themes of justice and forgiveness that his family believed and acted on. In 1974, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr., a black 23-year-old Ohio State University drop-out, shot and killed King’s mother as she played the organ in church. Chenault was sentenced to death, but despite their grief, the King family’s opposition to the death penalty persuaded authorities to sentence Chenault to life in prison.

 

A great orator, King presented many speeches and provided wisdom that, given today’s climate, ring eerily poignant:

 

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”

 

The right information in the wrong hands is, at best, a waste. But the right information in the wrong hands is likely to be used adversely. Bad character is often saturated with pride, and when pride saturates the minds of the intellects, they start to decide what is true and not true and thus what should be taught and should not be taught. 

 

The education system today is full of relativity and worldly ideas that stray from what is true. When bad character meets academia, the powers at hand abandon their posts as educators and truthsayers and instead cower to the cultural masses and teach what they want to be true. For years, science proved (and still does prove) the biological consistency of two sexes. Today, educators face losing their job if they refuse to call a man “she” or a woman “he.” Educators, one of the bedrocks of tomorrow’s leaders, are being forced to teach falsities.

 

When bad character meets education, doctrines that have long been deemed destructive and evil, namely Marxism, are now being touted as conduits to cultural advancement and progress. Academia is falling in line with patterns that, ironically, do more damage to the very demographics it aims to help. Marxism teaches that there will always be an oppressed group, and this false teaching creates a victim-mentality that burdens the pursuit of advancement. 

 

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

 

Unrest will not simply dissolve into peace because people want it to be so. Consider why unrest exists. In the context of King’s quote, unrest was the manifestation of injustice. Injustice fueled the unrest, thus a desire for peace was not going to suffice without a remedy to the injustice. Peace, without a remedy to the unrest, is a fake peace that will only serve temporarily and will allow the injustices to regroup and advance in the near future. 

 

Today, unrest happens because people fail to communicate. Tribalism in the form of political partisanship, religion, race, or position on a cultural issue is the source of the new unrest. Bad information, which if true would certainly be unjust, enrages the courts of public opinion and cause division when people fail to verify such information or to look objectively at the information instead of looking for facts that support their own narrative. 

 

We all want peace, or so we all say. But to say “we want peace” is often akin to a high schooler saying, “I don’t want drama.” Perhaps they know that they shouldn’t want drama, but their actions put their desire for drama on full display. We’ve all been there, right? Likely, unrest is a craving for so many. Some want to have a voice even if they don’t know entirely what they’re voicing, but unrest gives them a platform. Some want change but don’t know any alternative options to obtain it other than fomenting unrest. And some people simply desire unrest. 

 

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

 

Not only do we see hatred permeating our culture, but we see such hatred in the very leaders we hope would set an example. What’s worse is that hatred is taught to be wrong. Many of us were not allowed to say “I hate you” as children because of the poignancy of the word. But today, as is seen on Twitter and even in live discourse, leaders on both sides of the political spectrum choose hate over peace and truth. Many times untruths are the mode of hatred. In order to hate someone, you must have a strong disregard for their humanity or well-being. So often we see strong disregard for others show itself in new ways, whether it be a policy they’re pushing, a character flaw that people expose to shame them, or even calls for violence against them.

 

King’s quote is something that culture needs to reckon with. Most people would agree with King’s statement; far fewer will heed it.

 

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

 

In the book of Daniel, King Darius signed a decree prohibiting the worship or petition to any god or leader other than himself. The prophet Daniel, who had favor with Darius, could not obey this decree since his loyalty was to God. Daniel knew that praying to God was not safe, politically favored, popular, and could create enmity between himself and Darius. Per the decree, a violation of the law would be punishable by death. But Daniel stood fast even though he was sentenced to death. But God provided, and the injustice of the law was exposed.

 

Injustice does not develop casually or quickly. Injustice develops by evil landmarks over time that become well invested in the wickedness of unjust results. That said, fighting injustice will not be easy nor quick and will require, at great risk, taking actions that are often dangerous, politically opposed, and unfavorable. But the results of such animosity are far worth it, especially when contrasted to the results that will surely occur if injustice is never challenged.