10 Things You Can Learn From Martin Luther King, Jr.
On the nationally observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, take a second to learn a little bit about the man and his mission, and the bits of wisdom you can take from a quick look at an amazing life.
10. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned
Malcolm X was not thrilled about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He actually called it the “Farce on Washington”. Organizers wound up agreeing with a presidential request and the tone of the event was less forceful than organizers originally intended. Critics needed not worry, as the event was the biggest protest to come to Washington to date, and protesters were front and center for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Delivered right on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and burned into the world’s memory ever since.
9. Passion is paramount
“I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
King believed in justice, equality, philanthropy, non violent protest. He was a preacher, a scholar, and a revolutionary. He was a husband, a father, a friend, and a leader. He was a brilliant orator, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and his life was cruelly snuffed out way before his time. It was his passion that set him apart, and his passion that continues to do so.
8. We’re all in this together (eg “It’s not all about you”)
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
7. Again, it’s not all about you
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The idea that a person would consider their actions in relation to how those actions impact the world? That’s a philosophy that we could all stand to learn a little from.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
6. You have to be ready to stand by your ideals
When young Claudette Colvin defied Jim Crow laws and kept her seat on the bus, Martin Luther King, Jr. was part of the investigation. When Rosa Parks was arrested for also refusing to move, King led The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted for over a year. Over the duration of the campaign not only was King’s house bombed, he was also arrested. But because of that campaign the United States District Court ruled to end racial segregation on Montgomery, AL buses. A small step, or a milestone in the Civil Rights Movement?
5. Violence Isn’t The Answer
“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was a student of Howard Thurman, who helped found the first racially and culturally integrated church in the US. Thurman headed up Christian missions all over the world and had the chance to meet Mahatma Ghandi, who commented that American Black men might have the chance to make nonviolence a more common practice in the world. Because of his readings of Thurman’s work, King was keen to meet Ghandi, and traveled to India in 1959. He became absolutely convinced that justice and racial equality would be achieved through the use of nonviolent resistance.
4. Love, in fact, IS the answer
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
3. Pay attention. Stand up and do something!
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Not only was King dedicated to racial equality, he was also heavily invested in fighting poverty, both on American soil and abroad. He founded the “Poor People’s Campaign” in 1968 and charged the American government with the task of not only rebuilding cities, but changing the whole system of economics to repair the flaws of the system that perpetuate poverty.
2. Be yourself.
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that each of us is special. Each of us is here for a purpose and that the main purpose for all of us is to make the world a better place. No matter what color you are, what religion you are, what you look like, what you sound like, and no matter where you’re from. You belong here.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of faith. He respected men and women of faith that were of faiths different than his. The main point is that he believed. Not only did he believe, but he fought to the very death for what he believed in.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.