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Words that changed nation

Speech Excerpts

“Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.”If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

-Nobel Peace Acceptance Speech, Dec. 10, 1964

“Let us march on poverty until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat. March on poverty until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns in search of jobs that do not exist. Let us march on poverty until wrinkled stomachs in Mississippi are filled, and the idle industries of Appalachia are realized and revitalized, and broken lives in sweltering ghettos are mended and remolded. Let us march on ballot boxes until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda. The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions.

But we must keep going. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that allows judgment to run down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy of brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.”

-“Our God is Marching On!” MLK, March 25, 1965


“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”

“Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

“Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”

Facts about Martin Luther King Day

Legislation to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday was introduced in 1968, soon after King’s assassination, but Congress didn’t pass the law until 1983.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, D-N.Y., worked together by resubmitting Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday legislation each subsequent legislative session each year.

Illinois was the first state to adopt the day as a state holiday in 1973.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first celebrated as a federal holiday in 1986.

The day is not always celebrated on King’s birthday. Because some felt that the date of his birthday, Jan. 15, was too close to Christmas and New Year’s, it was decided that Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be celebrated on the third Monday in January. After this compromise was made, the law was passed.

Initially, the holiday was not accepted in some states. Some opponents felt that King didn’t deserve his own holiday, insisting that the civil rights movement was about more than one individual.

In 1987, Arizona governor Evan Mecham rescinded the holiday, setting off a boycott. It was his first act in office.

In 1993, the NFL moved the Super Bowl from Phoenix, Ariz., to Pasadena, Calif., because of the boycott.

In 1992, Arizona citizens voted to re-enact Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Super Bowl was held in Tempe, Ariz., in 1996.

Several southern states actually included celebrations for Confederate generals on the holiday.

In 1993, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was, for the first time, held in some form in all 50 states – sometimes under a different name.

In 2000, South Carolina became the last state to make the day a paid holiday for all state employees. Until then, employees could chose between celebrating it or one of three Confederate-related holidays.

In 2000, Utah was the last state to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its official name, renaming its Human Rights Day holiday.