America will once again pause on Monday to honor the monumental life and legacy of civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK pictured above in front row, second from left).
The annual MLK Day national holiday is an opportune time to ponder some of Dr. King’s timeless words of wisdom and their immense influence on the nation and world more than half a century later.
Like other giants of American history, MLK showed that great leadership begets great communication (among many other things). His powerful message about the critical importance of racial justice and equal opportunity — for all people — connected with diverse demographics of every race, gender, age, color and creed across the country.
MLK lifted the nation’s moral and spiritual compass to a higher level for the greater good.
It’s often said that past is prologue. With that in mind, what would MLK say about leadership, race, equality and politics in 2020? Following are ten consequential quotes by Dr. King (among many of relevance) which should loudly resonate with all Americans on MLK Day and every day:
1. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
2. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
3. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
4. “The time is always right to do what is right.”
5. People should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
6. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
7. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
8. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
9. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
10. “We have come a long way, but we still have a long, long way to go.”
MLK will always be remembered as a phenomenal leader and great communicator during a pivotal time in American history.
Through his historic leadership and soaring rhetoric, MLK was able to stir the moral conscience of many whites in effectuating positive change for America on a host of divisive issues involving racial justice and equal opportunity.
The long lasting results of MLK’s heroic work include more equality and less discrimination for African Americans and all Americans.
This outcome was memorialized by Congress in landmark legislation, primarily the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These two groundbreaking laws continue to make the USA a better country.
We can all learn valuable lessons from Dr. King to help positively shape the social fabric of America to effectuate equal opportunity and equal justice for all — especially in today’s increasingly diverse society.
Remember MLK’s sage advice for the ages: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
And that includes now.
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NOTE: The author is a former career spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) headquarters in Washington, D.C.