Words of Wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2017
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

Voice is not just the sound that comes from your throat, but the feelings that come from your words. Jennifer Donnelly  

I was watching a cable news show when I saw my first Word Cloud.  It was a graphic representation of the words used by a very_Word Cloud MLK_FFC_FC prominent politician. To be honest, I had never seen anything like this. I took notes on the image, and then I went straight to my room where I work to do some research on the term Word Cloud.  Then I decided to design my first Word Cloud or Word Text image.

I had been doing research for an article about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the graphic illustration you see on the right is the final version of that image.  The 20 words are representative of Dr. King’s vision for America.

Below you will find the appropriate quotes that give life and meaning to these words.

God & Faith

Dr. King was a Baptist minister. Every word he spoke and MLK 2everything he did was deeply rooted in his practice of religion.

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

 Brotherhood & Together

On August 28, 1963, I was a recent college graduate. I borrowed a reel-to-reel tape recorder so I could make a personal copy of Dr.MLK 15 King’s transformational “I Have a Dream” speech.

Three times during that speech he made reference to the importance of brotherhood.

Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood..

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Three times in one sentence he mentioned the importance of working together:

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

In another part of the speech used a powerful 3-word sentence to remind the 250,000 people who had assembled on the Mall in Washington, D.C.to work together:   
We cannot walk alone.

Hope, Justice & Love

I don’t know this with certainty, but I think it is fair MLK 11to assume that whenever Dr. King had an opportunity to speak, he used it to teach the basic principles of Hope, Justice and Love. These are a few examples of his marvelous ability to share his thoughts in tightly constructed and memorable admonitions:

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

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

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Change, Nonviolence & Peace

In my opinion, these three words form the foundation for Dr.MLK 7 King’s vision of America. That is why he was so inspirational to my generation. He was resolute, but caring. He was determined but peaceful and he was realistic, thoughtful  and kind.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.

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.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

Peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

Character, Consensus & Excellence

Dr. King had very high standards for himself, his family, and MLK 16everyone he was trying to lead. These words of wisdom underline that standard:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

Forgiveness, Overcome & Light

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived the lessons he learned in the Bible. He understood the humanness of our nature:
MLK 14

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.

We must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Dignity, Service & Quality

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. personified the meaning of Dignity, MLK 1Service and Quality. He never misled his followers. He did not believe in violence, and made no exceptions for it. He celebrated service to others, and he was a high-quality leader.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating for whites only.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.

The quality, not the longevity, of one’s live is what is important.


Dr. King had a dream, and he reached out to all Americans to share that dream with them:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

No person has the right to rain on your dreams.

I can think of no better way to end this blog than to share the words Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. These eloquent and powerful words inspired thousands of young students from my generation, and they continue to inspire us to this day:

I believe that what self-centered men have torn down MLK 5men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall Overcome!

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

God Bless Dr. Martin Luther King and his family.

God bless America

This article is dedicated to Congressman John Lewis and all the courageous men and women who have worked tirelessly to guarantee the promise of American equality to everyone.

Picture Credits:
The Library of Congress, The National Archives, The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

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