Last year in Washington, D.C., the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opened on the National Mall. It was the first monument honoring an African American and the first dedicated to peace.
Before King was assassinated in 1968, he led the civil rights movement using nonviolent resistance, won the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1963 gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the mall.
Thousands of people have visited the memorial with the towering statue of King. The site includes an inscription wall with 14 powerful quotations from King selected by a council of historians.
We offer King’s words today on this holiday honoring his work. They have inspired people rising up against oppression against communism in Europe, apartheid in South Africa and dictatorships in last year’s Arab Spring. They feed the hunger for freedom:
“We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”March 31, 1968, Washington
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”1963, “Strength to Love.”
“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.”Dec. 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway.
“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”April 18, 1959, Washington.
“I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”Feb. 25, 1967, Los Angeles.
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation, and this means we must develop a world perspective.”Dec. 24, 1967, Atlanta.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”April 16, 1963, letter from Birmingham, Ala.
“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.”Dec. 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway
“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 negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”Feb. 25, 1967, Los Angeles
“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.” 1963,“Strength to Love.”
“Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”April 4, 1967, New York City.
“We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs ‘down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ ”Dec. 5, 1955, Montgomery, Ala.
“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.”March 25, 1965, Montgomery, Ala.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”1958, “Stride Toward Freedom.”