Martin Luther King Jr.

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When did Martin Luther King Jr. say his quote about the "ultimate measure of a man"?

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This quotation was likely first made in August 1958 in a pair of sermons. The sermons were published in a short book in 1959 and then again in 1963. He is alluding to the fact that a person's true moral fiber only becomes apparent in times of deep struggle and challenge, and cannot be fully measured in times of peace.

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This is one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's most cited quotations. In fact, it is inscribed on his memorial in Washington DC along with other famous sayings of the civil rights leader. The most well-known publication of this quotation can be found in Strength to Love, a collection of Dr. King's sermon published in 1963, the same year he was made Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

The original sermons containing "The ultimate measure of a man" were delivered in August 1958 at the first National Conference on Christian Education of the United Church of Christ at Purdue University. The line appears in two of his sermons, "What Is Man?" and "The Dimensions of a Complete Life". Due to the popularity of these and other sermons, they were published the following year in the book The Measure of a Man.

Ever since his days as a seminary student, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been concerned with the theme of what defines a human's righteousness. The ideas of these two sermons were developed as early as the late 1940s or early 1950s. Some manuscripts of Dr. King's early sermons deal with this theme. It is one that he explored throughout his lifetime. It can be seen in many of his later works as well, including his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

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This quote is most commonly attributed to a collection of sermons Martin Luther King Jr published in 1963 titled Strength to Love, although it did first appear a few years earlier. Although King is well known as a civil rights activist and a passionate, eloquent speaker, some forget that he was also a Baptist preacher. In this book, the way religion is interwoven into his platform of nonviolence is made clear.

In this quote, King is alluding to the test of one's character that becomes evident in times of difficulty. While it is fairly easy to retain good morals when facing no trials in life, it is when people face adversity that their true selves become evident. During these times in his own life, King did not buckle from his platform of non-violence, always treating those who opposed him with respect. This quote is embedded in a book that reaches out to all of humanity and urges people to treat others with compassion and respect, always operating from a place of love for humankind.

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What King means by this is that it's easy for someone to take a stand on a controversial issue—like civil rights, for example—if they're in a comfortable position in life and they're not directly affected by it. However, it's much more difficult to take a stand when you're in a position of extreme stress and danger, when you're putting your life on the line for the things that you believe in. Then, and only then, can one get the full measure of someone, to find out what they're really like and what really matters to them.

When King wrote these words in the 1959 book The Measure of a Man, he was just setting out on his journey as a civil rights campaigner. He knew that the road ahead would be long and hard, but he also knew, as this quotation shows, that his involvement in the struggle for civil rights would be the making of him.

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This quote first appeared in a book called The Measure of a Man, published in 1959. The book was a publication of two sermons Martin Luther King gave at a conference sponsored by the United Church of Christ in 1958 at Purdue University. It later appeared in a sermon collection called Strength to Love (1963).

In the quote cited, King reiterated a familiar trope, also expressed in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail." He was distressed by white sympathizers who sat on the sidelines of the Civil Rights struggle and refused to fully commit to working for the cause of black equality.

It is easy, he says, to say the right words when all is well, but what matters is what you do when the rubber hits the road, so to speak (meaning, when it's put to the test). It basically means that if you are not there walking and working in solidarity with African Americans in times of controversy and danger then you do not really support the cause of social justice. In contrast, those who stand firm and put their well-being on the line are the people who bring about lasting change.

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This quotation is from Martin Luther King's book, Strength to Love, a collection of his sermons, edited by Melvin Arnold and Charles Wallis and published in 1963 by Harper and Brother's Religious Books.

There are plenty of explanations of the meaning of this quotation, including the eNotes reference below, but it is important to assess its message: namely, that men and women who have the courage and strength to live out their moral beliefs, even in the face of adversity, are the true champions in this world.

King's Strength to Love contained very many messages for the America and global public, some of which appeared too strong for its readers, or perhaps the political leadership, and which were subsequently removed by editors Arnold and Wallis. See the Stanford University King Institute Encyclopedia for further information.

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What's the meaning of the Martin Luther King Jr quote below? 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.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood as a leader for the oppressed during the Civil Rights Movement. He challenged the nation to transform America into a land of equality for all people—not just a select group. In many places in the country at that time (and not just in the South), laws were in place that discriminated against African Americans specifically and didn't allow them to fully participate in American society. King urged whites citizens to see the inherent injustice in these actions and to work toward a nation of racial unity.

This quote, then, is particularly meaningful for the white citizens who found themselves in a place of relative comfort during this era. King is saying that character is judged not by what people choose to do when times are easy (and there is little conflict) but by what they choose to do when they spot injustice.

Courageous people are those who leave a place of personal comfort and intentionally choose to step into a place of conflict on behalf of others in need. It also matters how people engage with others in the midst of such conflict; those with good character will treat others with respect, will not fall victim to hatred, and will move a conversation forward. A strong advocate of peaceful protests, King believed in maintaining composure and in maintaining respectful composure at all times.

Since King was also a preacher, he likely based this quote on several Biblical principles:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

These guiding principles provide the context needed to lead effectively in positions of conflict while maintaining good moral character.

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What's the meaning of the Martin Luther King Jr quote below? 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.

What King means by this is that it's only in times of trouble and hardship that we discover the true nature of someone's character; that it is only in times of adversity that we find out what we're really made of. This insight is undoubtedly gleaned from King's extensive involvement in the civil rights movement. For years the movement had struggled to overcome the deep-seated prejudice of society and force the issue of civil rights to the very top of the political agenda. Throughout that time, King and others within the movement faced violence, threats, intimidation, and regular periods of imprisonment. Yet throughout it all, throughout all those years of "challenge and controversy," those most dedicated to the cause stood firm, unshakeable in their conviction that they were doing the right thing and that they would one day prevail.

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What's the meaning of the Martin Luther King Jr quote below? 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.

Martin Luther King Jr. said these words in the last speech he gave before he was assassinated. In the speech, he seems aware that his life is soon to end. He says that the worth ("measure") of any person lies in the courage they show in continuing to stand up for what they believe when the going gets tough. It's easy to mouth the right sentiments when you are safe and comfortable, but harder to stand up for them when you might suffer or even have to die for them. It's hard not to interpret this speech as the 39-year-old King speaking about himself. He knew his work was controversial as he spoke out for the unity of all people, the equality of blacks and whites, and against the Vietnam war, yet he went on with his scheduled speeches, showing that he was a man of true courage. It would have been easy to hide out and not speak his truth at this time of threat. 

In this same speech, he says that like anyone else, he wishes to live for a long time, but also says that a long life is not the most important thing. It's more important for him to deliver his message of freedom, even if he has to die for it, and he does so by telling his audience that he has been to the top of the mountain and seen the promised land. Because of that, he does not fear any man. His words act to encourage others to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means dying. 

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What's the meaning of the Martin Luther King Jr quote below? 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.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is best known as the main leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the US.  During the movement, things were difficult for African Americans.  The idea of rising up against a system that had oppressed them was not a comfortable one.  But King is saying in this quote that this is exactly the sort of situation where you find out what you are made out of.  What he is saying is that it is easy to handle life when things are comfortable and convenient.  How you handle that sort of life says nothing about your character.  What really shows your character is how you act when times are bad.  If you stand up for what is right, even if it's hard, you have a lot more character than if you refuse because you don't want to deal with the "challenge and controversy."

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