Ode to the First Amendment

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“The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.”  – David Ben-Gurion

And lest we forget:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
– First Amendment, United States Constitution

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to speak openly – without government restraint. It guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION:  It  forbids  Congress from promoting one religion over another and from restricting an individual’s religious practices. Regardless of the religion. Any and all religion.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION:  It  prohibits  Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.  Censorship is therefore prohibited.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY:  It  prohibits  Congress from  denying the rights of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.  The power of peaceful protest is our democratic right.

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Photo (of graffiti) via flickr.com.

Photo (of press) by Glenn Fawcett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy

“My recovery has not been easy. Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” 

—  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsbur

Many of us can attest to that.

In his last words, during yesterday’s State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said:

“My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy.  Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy.  Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.  But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.  The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy.  But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach. 

Believe it.”

I do.

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the words of the late, honorable Martin Luther King, Jr. :

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” 

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” 

heatherfromthegrove’s Seven New Year’s Revelations Wrap-up… and on to new beginnings

As I say each year, on this day, the 8th of January:

 “For those of you who have been following, reading and enjoying each of my seven New Year revelations …. Thank You.

I would like to point out that they are not New Year Resolutions. I don’t make New Year Resolutions anymore. They are my own personal revelations. Epiphanies. Discoveries. In the past decade, I’ve faced some daunting challenges and heart-wrenching events. I’d like to think that I’ve handled them with dignity, compassion, grace, and humor. Always humor. It helps take the edge off.

So, the lessons that these “life tests” have taught me are my “revelations.” As I move forward with my life, I will use them as my guide. Wisdom has to be earned. For me, it’s an ongoing journey, as I’m sure it is for all of you, as well.”

Here’s a synopsis (the numbers have a hyperlink back to each revelation post):

New Year’s Revelation No. 1 Today is Tomorrow

New Year’s Revelation No. 2Humility is attractive, and Arrogance… not so much

New Year’s Revelation No. 3 Stand by what you say and what you do

New Year’s Revelation No. 4 Be comfortable in your own skin

New Year’s Revelation No. 5:  Freedom from Fear

New Year’s Revelation No. 6:  Respect Human Dignity… through Kindness

New Year’s Revelation No. 7:  Love Thy Neighbor, it’s that simple

And on it goes.

I’m looking forward to whatever 2014 has in store for me.  

I wish you all a blessed, healthy and happy  2014 and may your own personal journey bring you deep fulfillment and wisdom… and loads of wonderful opportunity and adventures!

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

New Year’s Revelation No. 5 of 7: Freedom from Fear

“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”
 — Marilyn Ferguson

In her insightful blog, Cauldrons and Cupcakes, Nicole Cody recently wrote a post titled What’s Your Power Word for 2014?”  She explains that she ditched the whole New Year resolution thing, and replaced it with a more streamlined system: one single Power Word. This Power Word is at the center of all her intentions for the year.

My Power Word for 2014 is Freedom.

  • Freedom from the predators who have been looting methodically through our property, on the other end of the country, until almost nothing is left (see my post In Search of Mayberry).
  • Freedom  to wage the mother of all legal battles against these people. They will be brought to justice.
  • Freedom from the economic encumbrances of this prolonged (Recession) Depression.
  • Freedom inside my heart, so that I may let go of all the negative energy that has followed me around the past six years, like a relentless mountain lion tracking the scent of blood.

And this is only just the icing on my cake of intentions for 2014.

But today’s Revelation is about Freedom from fear.

Most of us have fears.  We have phobias, like the fear of flying, public speaking, bees, rejection … the list goes on.  Some fears may seem silly but they are very real to the people who harbor these anxieties. Sometimes, they can be paralyzing. 

When we overcome our fears, we feel lighter.  That “lightness” is what freedom feels like.

When I was a child and teenager, I was rather shy (many who know me today, are raising an eyebrow as they read this).  So, I decided to enroll in theatre classes, to overcome my shyness. Apparently, it worked. I haven’t stopped talking since.

Beware of hypotheticals. 

Sometimes, we are anxious or fearful about what we imagine will happen.  We’re not sure that what we imagine will happen, will actually happen… but we fear it nevertheless.  This is a difficult one to overcome, but if we try to rationalize it by saying:  Okay, what’s the worst that could happen?…  then think about it. Live with the idea for a bit.  If the worst actually happens, then it’s over and done with. The sun will still come up the next day.  Life goes on. And so will we.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.

Courage, mes amis. Courage, my friends.

We shall be free of fear.

 “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

Photos via ssy.org and thewisemag.com.

Cast aside all crippling fear. Believe in yourself. Be free.

 

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All that rest and relaxation did me a world of good… gave me some perspective.

I’ll start the week with a quote from the founder of Buddhism

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.

Never fear what will become of you.

Depend on no one.

Only the moment you reject all help, are you freed.”

— Hindu Prince Gautauma Siddhartha (Founder of Buddhism, 563-483 BC)

Whether real or imagined, fear is what keeps us from making rational decisions.  When we shed our fears, we break free from the emotional and psychological shackles that keep us from doing what we need to do… from being who we need to be.

I have actually made this my own personal mantra.

 

 

America

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“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” 
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

For many of us, America is our adopted country.  It is not a birthright, but a choice. We chose America and she, in turn, welcomed us into her fold. 

Why choose America?

She is diverse, feisty, outspoken and sassy.

She has fifty states and the federal district of Washington, D.C., as well as several commonwealth territories. Each has its own unique flavor, style, accent and sights. So much to see and discover.

She provides a multitude of opportunities which, in turn, enable us to achieve our wildest dreams… if we dare.

She believes in second chances, allowing us to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off – if and when we fail.

She allows us to reinvent ourselves, again and again.

She is extremely competitive and proud.

She can be very harsh, yet also very kind.

She, like the rest of us, can put her foot in her mouth from time to time… but then apologize wanly and be done with it.

She may have a few flaws, but she tries to do better.

She will always lend a helping hand to other countries, even though her help is not always welcome.

She embraces strangers but you wouldn’t want her as your enemy.

She is stubborn, tough, independent and free.

She is receptive to hearing all opinions, opposing or not, and will agree to disagree.

She advocates freedom and justice.

She is not infallible, but strives to be.

She believes that the only power greater than her, is God.

She doesn’t let insults faze her.

She stands by what she says and what she does.

She is America.

Happy Fourth of July!

____________

(Poem “Why Choose America?” written by Heather Joan Marinos/Copyright © 2013 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved.)

Image via thebestfloridainsurance.com.

Freedom and Individualism Revisted

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I am reposting this blog because it seems to have struck a chord with people from across the globe − with thousands of views.

In the first sentence (below), I mentioned that three uniquely brilliant people came into my life in the mid-1970s.  What I did not say then was how they came into my life.  Many of us have someone in our lives who we look up to and who holds an extra special place in our hearts.  A mentor,  a teacher, or  a family member. In my case, it was all three rolled into one — my brother.  Six years my senior, he took me under his wing many, many times.  He introduced me to jazz music, specifically Thelonious Monk and I still have the tapes he gave me (back in the day when we listened to tape cassettes!) well over three decades ago.  Then he gave me two book recommendations for my “must read” list:  The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran and Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.  I read them and I was not disappointed.

So, that’s how these visionaries were introduced to me. 

And now, here’s the blog once again:

Freedom and Individualism, as expressed by three creative geniuses:

Thelonious Monk, Khalil Gibran and Ayn Rand.

(originally posted by heatherfromthegrove on October 21st, 2011)

In the mid-1970’s, three uniquely brilliant people came into my life. 

The first was American jazz pianist and composer, Thelonious Monk (b.1917 – d.1982).  His improvisational style set him apart from the traditional jazz musicians of the time.  In the 1940’s, the music genre known as jazz was experiencing a cultural revolution of sorts, with Thelonious Monk as its revolutionary leader. A new style of jazz  — be-bop —  was born. Considered jazz for intellectuals, the be-bop sound was all about intricate melodies, complex harmonies – and fast tempos. Thelonious Monk once said: “If you really understand the meaning of be-bop, you understand the meaning of freedom.” 

220px-Thelonious_Monk,_Minton's_Playhouse,_New_York,_N.Y.,_ca._Sept._1947_(William_P._Gottlieb_06191)Freedom – in my opinion – is the most beautiful word in the dictionary.  The meaning and experience of freedom is unique to each and every one of us.  What tastes like freedom to me may be radically different than anyone else. Some savour it as a private, spiritual experience, while others view freedom on a global scale. There is no right or wrong answer.  It is in the eye of the beholder.

I love to listen to the discordant sounds of Thelonious Monk. I never met the man. Nevertheless, I owe him a debt of gratitude because when I listen to improvisational jazz, I feel  free – and vibrantly alive.

gibran2The second visionary genius was the Lebanese-American poet, philosopher, and artist  – Khalil Gibran (b.1883 – d.1931).  His works (The Prophet became an iconic favorite) were notably influential in American popular culture during the tumultuous 1960’s. On the subject of Freedom, Khalil Gibran’s eloquent poetry always strikes a chord with me –regardless of the number of times I read and reread his words:

“…Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.

These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling. And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light. And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.”

Finally, there is my muse.  Her name, Ayn Rand.  Ayn is pronounced “Ein” (which means “one” in German).  In my study, there are at least three long bookshelves devoted to Ayn Rand  (her novels, essays, philosophical treatises, biographies, and virtually everything I could find that has been written about her).  If I ever choose to go back to do my PhD in Philosophy, the subject of my dissertation would most definitely be Ayn Rand.

240px-Ayn_Rand1Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905, Ayn witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution firsthand and despised the collectivism that was so entrenched in Russian culture at the time.  Her family lost everything in Communist Russia and this intelligent student of philosophy and history decided that the American model of freedom was the path she wanted to pursue. In 1926, she went to visit relatives in Chicago, then traveled to Hollywood … and never looked back.  Her first novel, We the Living (1936), was inspired by her earlier exposure to Russian tyranny.  In her novels, Ayn understood that in order to create the wonderfully heroic fictional characters, she would have to articulate the philosophical principles which – in her view – made these characters truly heroic.  As such, her novels were interwoven with politics, philosophy, economics, metaphysics, ethics and epistemology. And sex.  In 1957, her last work of fiction – Atlas Shrugged – was considered her greatest achievement. 

However, my personal favorite of hers is The Fountainhead (1943). It was the masterpiece that solidified Ayn Rand as the champion of Individualism.  And this is why I am so inspired by this brilliant intellectual who, incidentally, died in 1982.

For me, individualism is freedom. It’s at the core of everything I believe in.  Individual thought, choice, and actions.  Our journey into this world is a singular experience. As is our journey out of this world.  And our lives are made up of a series of individual choices, reactions and experiences that we (and no one else) are accountable for. For every action, there is a reaction.  For every choice we make, there is a consequence. Good and bad.  (preferably more good , than bad!).

I know, these are pretty heavy thoughts on a Friday evening.  So, I’ll leave you with some words that resonate deeply with me.  In The Fountainhead, the hero – architect Howard Roark – passionately explains the essence of individualism:

“… Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons—a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning mind.

But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act—the process of reason—must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred…” 

I’ve given you just a snippet of this courtroom speech. It is riveting and worth reading in its entirety.

Here’s to Freedom!

Cheers,

hftg

Images via care2.com, karabess.wordpress.com, wikipedia.org, and civilclothing.com.

President Obama 2013 Inaugural Address

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Today, on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, President Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second four-year term. He has many challenges ahead of him, not the least of which is an economy that is struggling to recover. As Dr. King once said: “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

This is the complete transcript of President Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address:

“Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.”

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

Today, our nation honors the memory of a man who inspired generations of men and women ― young and old, black and white, and across every creed.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  ― clergyman, activist and leader in the American civil rights movement  ― received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, at the age of 35 (the youngest man to ever have received a Nobel Peace Prize).  When notified that he was selected for this honor, he stated that he would donate the prize money ($54,123) to further the cause of the civil rights movement.

He was assassinated by a sniper’s  bullet on April 4, 1968, in Memphis (Tennessee), as he addressed crowds of people from  his hotel balcony.

He was not only a man of  wise and thought-provoking words, but a man of action.  He acted on his beliefs and the words he spoke came from his soul. His name is on my own personal roster of people who have truly inspired me. Aside from his famous I Have A Dream speech (quoted in its entirety, at the end of this post), I wanted to share some of his thoughts on what, in my view, are four of the most powerful words to live by: Compassion. Forgiveness. Freedom. Hope.  

On Compassion:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”

On Forgiveness:

“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.”

On Freedom:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

On Hope:

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.š

 

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.

I Have A Dream:

(August 28, 1963)

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

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. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. 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”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

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.”

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.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

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.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. 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.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”