21 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes About Leadership That Will Inspire You

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

by Sarah Fielding and Bustle Editors
Originally Published: 
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On Jan. 18, the world will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and remember one of the most influential voices in the fight for equality during the Civil Rights Movement. Over 40 years after his death, Martin Luther King Jr.'s quotes and speeches are still just as relevant as they were in the '50s and '60s — and deeply important to share while commemorating the life of Dr. King.

King's life was cut short when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, but the impact he made during his time as an activist and Baptist minister during the '50s and '60s is unparalleled. The world is still plagued by inequality and racism nearly 40 years after his death, but Dr. King's influence and work during the Civil Rights Movement still paves the way for citizens to fight back against hate and bigotry.

There is no question that Dr. King was born a natural leader. He had the power to motivate and inspire, as well as bring people together. Long after he was murdered, Dr. King's words still resonate with people and encourage the next generation of leaders to stand up for equality and justice. Read on for Dr. King's most inspiring quotes about leadership that will inspire you to fight for a better world for all.

1. "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

Montgomery, Alabama, 1957

2. "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."

Strength to Love, 1963

3. "So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963

4. "We must rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns, with a broader concern for all humanity. You see, this new world is a world of geographical togetherness. No individual can afford to live alone now."

"The Birth of a New Age" Address, Chicago, 1956

5. "The time is always right to do the right thing."

Oberlin Commencement Address, 1965

6. "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."

"Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution" Sermon, Washington DC, 1968

7. "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

Africa Freedom Dinner, Atlanta 1959

8. "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."

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964

9. "Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

— 1968 "The Drum Major Instinct," Sermon, Atlanta

10. "Lightning makes no sound until it strikes."

Why We Can't Wait, 1964

11. "Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals."

—"Loving Your Enemies," Sermon, Montgomery, Alabama 1957

12. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."

Strength to Love, 1963

13. "No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

Strength to Love, 1963

14. "We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers."

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964

15. "Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in."

Address at Youth March for Integrated Schools, Washington, DC, 1959

16. "We are not makers of history. We are made by history. strength on love."

Strength to Love, 1963

17. "Power at its best, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love."

"Where Do We Go From Here?," Address, Atlanta, 1967

18. "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind."

—"Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," Washington, DC, 1968

19. "Keep moving, for it may well be that the greatest song has not yet been sung, the greatest book has not been written, the highest mountain has not been climbed."

"Keep Moving from This Mountain," Address, Spelman College,1960

20. "Courage faces fear and thereby masters it."

Strength to Love, 1963

21. "“The toughminded person always examines the facts before he reaches conclusions; in short, he postjudges.”

Strength to Love, 1963

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