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Research paper topic: Martin Luther King, Jr - 1497 words
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Martin Luther King, Jr. 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. This became the basis for the Civil Rights Movement. This fairness is one value that allowed King's followers to have so much respect for him.
For some, he was even more than a man. He was the black Jesus to many. King's followers felt this way about him because they had never before been treated with such fairness. He lifted them so high that they could not help but think that he was an act sent to them from God. It is obvious that King's character was strongly influenced by his caring and compassion for all human beings, regardless of skin color.
King's ability to show how he cared for his fellow man was evident in the way he was able to strike deep into the hearts of people during his speeches. It is through his caring and inner strength that King has made himself the supreme voice of the black race. King's persistent fight for justice was perhaps the most significant value that made him one of the most influential leaders of all time. He believed that one-day justice would prevail for blacks. This is seen in one of his most famous speeches of all time, "I Have a Dream": "I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice." More than anything, King wanted to see justice prevail. King and many of his followers felt that real progress had been made at the signing of the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts.
Blacks now had many rights that they were previously refused, they now had the right to vote, access to public accommodations, and racial discrimination was prohibited in the sale or rental of housing. With these two acts, King's dream was one step closer to reality. King believed in his fight for justice so strongly that he described himself as follows: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness." The active practice of the philosophy of non-violence is a very important moral value that shaped the character of King's leadership. King was an advocate of non-violent means of achieving civil rights reform. Non-violence was the major driving force behind his plans of social change.
King was very much aware of the power of non-violent tactics. President Kennedy gave truth to the philosophy when he reacted to the protests in Birmingham by agreeing to submit civil rights legislation to Congress. This legislation was to become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King modeled his philosophy of non-violence on that of Mohandas Gandhi, who is one of the world's greatest advocates of non-violent resistance. During his meeting with Gandhi he became more convinced than ever that non-violent resistance was the most powerful weapon for oppressed people to wield in their struggle for freedom.
He voiced his beliefs of non-violent resistance in his "I have a dream" speech. He said: "The true meaning of a man is not how he behaves in moment's of comfort and convince, but how he stands at times of controversy and challenge. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." Many if the great leaders in the history of the world have lead not through violence but through peace. Mohandas Gandhi, who is one of the greatest leaders of our time, centered his thinking on peace and non-violence. King was one of Gandhi's greatest admirers.
King learned of the importance of peace from Gandhi. This is shown through his use of non-violent tactics in the struggle for equal rights. The virtues of non-violence and peace are very much related. Both elements are key elements of King's character and actions. Most leaders do not achieve a great amount of results because of their lack in understanding of the forcefulness of peaceful resistance. Kings methods caused many institutions and laws to change.
For his actions on behalf of peace he received the highest and most recognizable award in the world for his work and achievements. In December of 1964 King received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway for his outstanding work in the American Civil Rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the great leaders of recent history. He changed the world not through death and destruction, but through the power of non-violent resistance. Throughout King's life he used his values of integrity, love, truth, fairness, caring, non-violence, and peace to lead his people out of the depths of moral injustice.
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