Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most influential people of this century. King is not a great figure in history just because he is famous; he is great because he served the cause of peace and justice for all humans. King is best remembered for his humanity, leadership and his love of his fellow man regardless of their skin color. This presence of strong moral values developed King’s character, which enabled him to become one of the most influential leaders of our time.
Through reading I Have a Dream – Writings and Speeches that Changed the World, we learn that his values of integrity, love, truth, fairness, caring, non-violence, and peace were what motivated him to greatness.
Integrity is a central value in a leader’s character and it is through integrity that King had vision of the truth. The truth that one-day this nation would live up to the creed, “all men are created equal”. No man contributed more to the great progress of blacks during the 1950’s and 1960’s than Martin Luther King, Jr. He was brought up believing “one man can make a difference”, and this is just what he did. Integrity has a large effect on what we think, say, and do.
It is because of King’s thoughts and actions so many people put their trust and faith in him. King believed that America, the most powerful and richest nation in the world, would lead the way to a revolution of the mind. This revolution will change the way society views itself, shifting from a materialistic society to a spiritual society. When this occurs, King believed that racism could be conquered.
King’s unconditional love for all humans was another value that strongly influenced his character. King described his meaning of love in one of his many speeches, “A Time to Break Silence”:
“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response.
I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door, which leads to ultimate reality.”
King was called an extremist, which he was not sure how to deal with at first. After careful consideration he believed that if he were to be called an extremist for love, it could only be taken as a compliment. He believed that the world was in dire need for more extremists like him. King did not want to be remembered after his death by the Nobel Peace Prize or his many other awards.
He wanted people to say “…that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. …And I want you to say that I tried to love and save humanity”.
Even when his own life and the life of his family were threatened, King did not react with hatred or violence, he found more strength and courage. He told his fellow men, “I want you to love your enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them.” Therefore, King’s love for the human race led him to focus his ministry and speeches in obedience to Jesus Christ, who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them.
King’s ability to speak the truth is another value that made him such an influential leader.
This ability is one reason why King was asked to be the leader of so many important protest marches and sit-ins. His mother was aware of King’s ability to speak the truth very early in his life. King’s followers believed that he would speak nothing but the truth. But, in King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, he could only hope that what he had written will be seen as the truth:
“If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates me having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.”
King also believed that all people should be treated with equality and fairness.
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