To honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on MLKDay 2022, we asked our faculty and staff at the UAB School of Education to share their favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and reflect on his powerful words. These quotes are attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the sentiments shared were all provided by the listed faculty and staff.

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

Dr. Michelle Robinson, Interim Dean: This quote is one of my favorites because it reinforces the power of spreading positivity. Returning hate for hate never works. If we want a better life and a better world, that path requires love and light.

 

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. Larrell Wilkinson, Assistant Professor: This quote is my favorite because it discusses the purpose and implications of education. It speaks to the need for education and character.

 

"We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” Martin Luther King, Jr., told an overflowing crowd in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 April 1968, where the city’s sanitation workers were striking. “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Dr. Tondra Loder-Jackson, Full Professor: It is both haunting and hopeful. Haunting because he preached this sermon the night before his assassination. Hopeful because he prophesied brighter days ahead for race relations in America.

 

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

Dr. Steven L. Turner, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Department: This quote gets down to an essential element of life, you can hate, and you can rage, but when you approach a difficult situation with love and empathy, you transcend an argument and distill what is troubling you down to an essential truth of life. 

 

"The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically."

Sonja Nicole Hill, Director of the UAB Regional Inservice Center: It's my favorite quote because it aligns with my personal philosophy of education regarding what I believe is my role and responsibility as an educator.

 

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

Dr. Mary Ann Bodine Al-Sharif, Assistant Professor: This quote is my favorite because I put my life and other lives at risk when I become silent about things that matter. Life is a precious commodity. This quote reminds me that I often have the privilege to speak, have a voice, and have a seat at the table. I cannot take these things for granted. When I do, I further silence other voices. I become the oppressor when I do, which is NOT my end goal.

 

"We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Dr. Josephine Prado: This quote is my favorite because it reminds me that our commonalities are more important than our differences.

 

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

Ouida Moore-Cain: It's not my favorite because I enjoy many others. However, I like this one because it's not often quoted but quite prevalent for such a time as now.

 

"The time is always right to do what is right." 

Chelsea Eytel, Director of Communications: Whenever I read this quote, I think about how important it is to do the right thing when times are tough and situations are frustrating. It doesn't matter what the problem is or how trying the times may be in the moment. We have the power to change the world by simply doing the right thing, all the time, no matter what. 

 

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

Tina Phillips, Director of Administrative and Fiscal Affairs: This quote reminds me to be consistent with my faith. I believe love is the most important thing in the world and should be a part of everyone's purpose for existing. There are times in life when it may look like evil is winning, but it is only temporary. The truth is stronger and everlasting.

 

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Dr. Jeremiah Clabough, Associate Professor: I like this Dr. King quote above because it shows that certain public issues connected to race and diversity are not easily resolved, but can be addressed by democratic citizens being active in their local, state, and national government. In some cases, people must work years and generations to accomplish their goals because the nature of some issues may change over time. For example, it took civil rights activists almost a century to end the Jim Crow segregation laws that emerged after the U.S. Civil War. Regardless of the struggle, these goals can be and usually are accomplished by democratic citizens taking civic action to address issues in their local community, state, nation, and world.

 

"A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Dr. Cora Causey, Assistant Professor: Part of my personal responsibility is an ongoing deep dive to investigate how we fix unequal opportunities due to the various systems developed and perpetuated throughout history. It can feel overwhelming. However, I continue to ask the question, what is my role? And look for collaborators along the way.

 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Dr. Jennifer Summerlin, Assistant Professor: Dr. King so eloquently frames the reality of dismissing injustice outside of our own lives and world—a frequent practice by all of us in some shape, form, or fashion. When we idly stand by or sadly turn a blind eye, dismissing what we know is unacceptable, we are not considering that this injustice could happen to us too. This thought is the essence of this quote for me, "injustice anywhere" IS A THREAT to JUSTICE EVERYWHERE. On a final note, the quote's ultimate power comes from its context, written by Dr. King while confined in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell. Dr. King's letter, a response to local clergymen, questioning his motives as an "outsider" in the state of Alabama and urging him to mind his own business—an unfortunate yet common response given to truth speakers. Phrases like: "It's not that bad," "We have come a long way," "Nothing is perfect" "It is much better than so-and-so's experience," or worst of all, "Look at how much our group/institution/clergy/neighborhood is doing," are ways we placate ourselves into believing that we are not willing players in this treacherous game. And unless we as a community, city, state, and nation are willing to own the fact, opening our eyes wide to the prejudice continuing to dominate our political, justice, and economic systems, the light of change will remain dimly lit, flickering amidst a sea of good intentions. Let me conclude by sharing Dr. King's closing statement in this "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" as my heartfelt wish for this New Year. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not so distant tomorrow, the radiant star of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all its scintillating beauty.

 

“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.”

Tashara Walker, Office of Student Services Director: This quote emphasizes the fact that true leadership requires courage.

 

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” 

Dr. Stephanie Corcoran, Assistant Professor: I love this quote because it is so empowering and emphasizes that attitude matters the most.

 

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

Dr. Michele Jean Sims, Associate Professor: Unselfish service to others has been my ethos for as long as I can remember. I believe that I am my best self when doing for others in the hopes of uplifting and paying it forward.

 

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

Dr. Lori Edmonds: This quote is my favorite MLK quote at this time because we are in a very dark period filled with deepening divisions. By lovingly sharing the truth, I believe that there is hope that we can drive out the darkness.

 

Dr. Teaira McMurtry, Assistant Professor: I couldn't choose one quote because I study Black language, so it is the dynamic way he articulates the quote(s). His rhythmic sound patterns, cadence, and intonational contouring reflect the traditional Black Church and underscores almost half a century of scholarship on Black language. If you want to learn more about Black language, here is a 5min video of linguist Walt Wolfran describing the essence of Black language.