Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is known as one of history's best communicators. He could accomplish more in one line than many could hope to accomplish in an entire speech or book. Since his ascendance to the top of the civil rights movement and assassination, his words have echoed through the generations, and his urgent advice to the world has never lost its relevance.
In his writing, Dr. King employed a rich feast of oratorical strategies and stylistic devices, and he displayed a command of grammar and a comprehensive understanding of how to organize a speech for maximum impact. He made use of repetition, parallel structure, imagery, analogy, alliteration and many other techniques, producing a powerful effect on those who heard or read his words.
On Monday, Americans will mark Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday by taking some time to remember the legacy of a man who changed the course of history. Here are some of his most memorable remarks on communication and leadership:
- "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." (Nobel Prize acceptance speech)
- "I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal." ("Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" speech)
- "When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory." ("I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech)
- "We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back." ("I Have a Dream" speech)
- "All we say to America is, 'Be true to what you said on paper.'" ("I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech)
- "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" (The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.)
- "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." (Strength to Love)
- "Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated." (Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story)
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