King offers us hope, inspiration, call to do better

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We are all hurting.

And we often are unable to comfort one another, as we focus on our disagreements and divisions rather than coming together to find solutions.

To whom can we look for inspiration and solace?

We turn, as so many have before us, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His words, spoken more than half a century ago, could have been uttered this week. Let them serve as both comfort and a call to action.

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. ... 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.”

— from “I Have a Dream,” delivered Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“It is normalcy all over our country which leaves the Negro perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of vast ocean of material prosperity. It is normalcy all over Alabama that prevents the Negro from becoming a registered voter. No, we will not allow Alabama to return to normalcy.

“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 of brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.”

— from “Our God is Marching On,” delivered March 25, 1965, in Selma, Ala.

“(T)here are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, and culture and education for their minds, and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

“But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

— from “The Other America,” delivered April 14, 1967 at Stanford University

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

— from “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” delivered April 3, 1968 (his final speech before his assassination April 4) at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn.