William Shakespeare wrote, “Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.”
It is difficult to echo with words of a great man. All the quotes not cited below belong to one of my dearest of inspirations, Martin Luther King Jr. Here is a brief history and his incredible words I thought were appropriate.
“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who protested during the Vietnam war against the Vietnam war. He was arrested over 20 times in several states, beaten by police on at least four occasions, his home was bombed and he was finally assassinated by a suspicious lone gunman in 1968.
“I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”
“They have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: ‘The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.’”
Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest person ever at the time to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, when he was 35 years old. He would turn over the $54,123 awarded him to the furtherance of the civil rights movement. He remains the second youngest ever to win the award. He was awarded five honorary degrees during his civil rights efforts and was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963.
“When you are right, you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.”
“The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth. Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was considered a communist by FBI and vigorously investigated. The personal information discovered during this investigation was exploited by the agency in an attempt to control King. When he failed to comply, the FBI distributed reports regarding alleged extramarital affairs to the executive branch, reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), and his direct family. The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he did not cease his civil rights work.
“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.’”
At the time of his death, while standing at the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, he was under surveillance by FBI agents across the street. They were the first emergency personnel to respond to scene. King died at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968.
“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.”
In his letter from Birmingham Jail, King closed with this:
“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
“Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.”