50 Years ago , MLK was honored for his dedication to peace

Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the day Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to peace and achieving racial justice through nonviolent action. Recipients of the award, considered “the world’s most prestigious prize,” receive a medal, personal diploma and prize money. After being notified of his selection on Oct. 14, 1964, King announced that he would donate his prize money of $54,123 to the cause of civil rights.

In recent years his children have been in a legal battle over the control and possible sale of the Nobel Prize as well as King’s traveling Bible. Though the feud has yet to be resolved, King’s dedication to peace, love and civil rights—the lifework that earned him the prize and a place in history—continues to live on. Here are some of his timeless messages:

1. When Malcolm X advocated that nonviolence was the “philosophy of the fool” in a 1956 sermon, King argued the opposite:

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

2. During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on Dec. 10, 1964, King spoke of the need for humankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression:

“Nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.”

3. When asked about racism and living together as brothers, King once stated the importance of togetherness:

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

4. In his 1963 letter (pdf) from the Birmingham, Ala., jail, he wrote of the detrimental effects of injustice:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

5. King’s reflection on the character of humankind from his 1963 book, Strength to Love:

“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.”

6. During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King expressed the importance of truth and love in overcoming evil:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

7. His thoughts on nonviolence:

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

8. During his famous “I Have a Dream” (pdf) speech on Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., King spoke of the universal freedom that comes with equality:

“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

9. In “Paul’s Letter to American Christians,” written in November 1956, King articulated the consequences of resorting to violence:

“If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”

10. His thoughts on service:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

11. During his 1967 “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech in Atlanta, King expressed hope in times of despair:

“When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

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