Love, Struggle and Excellence: Dr. King's Message to Black Youths

Ebony, January 1992 | Go to article overview

Love, Struggle and Excellence: Dr. King's Message to Black Youths


On Black Heritage

The Negro must always guard against the danger of becoming ashamed of himself and his past.

There is much in the heritage of the Negro that each of us can be proud of.

The oppression that we have faced, partly because of the color of our skin, must not cause us to feel that everything non-White is objectionable.

The content of one's character is the important thing, not the color of the skin.

We must teach every Negro child that rejection of heritage means loss of cultural roots, and [that] people who have no past have no future.

On Black Students In

White Schools

The whiteness and blackness of the skin should in no way determine the relationship [between Black and White students].

Properly speaking, a Negro should never have a "White friend"; he should have a friend who happens to be White.

A White person should never have a "colored friend"; he should have a friend who happens to be colored. So you should seek to freely associate with White and Negro students, realizing that the relationship is determined by the common humanity of all rather than by race.

On Economic

Emancipation

Well has it been said...that Negroes too often buy what they want and beg for what they need. Negros must learn to practice systematic saving. They must also pool their economic resources through various cooperative enterprises. Such agencies as credit unions, savings and loan associations, and finance companies are needed in every Negro community. All of these are things that would serve to lift the economic level of the Negro which would in turn give him greater purchasing power. This increased purchasing power will inevitably make for better housing, better health standards, and for better educational standards.

On Education

The function of education...is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stoops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals ...We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--this is the goal of true education.

On The Pursuit

Of Excellence

One should seek to do his life's work as if God Almighty called him at this particular moment in history to do it. And he must do it with a sense of cosmic responsibility, no matter how small it happens to be. He must do a little job in a big way. He must do ab ordinary job in an extraordinary way. "If you can't be a pine on the top of a hill, be a scrub in the valley, but be the best little scrub in the side of the hill. 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 the sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are."

If it falls your lot to sweep streets, sweep them like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music.

We must skillfully and intellectually prepare ourselves to live in an integrated society. Whatever you choose as your life work, do it well. Don't be content with sheer mediocrity. Do your job so well that nobody could do it better. Do it so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will have to say, "Here lived a man who did his job as if God almighty called him at this particular moment in history to do it."

This is no time to be a good Negro anything. You simply have to be a good teacher, not a good Negro teacher--a good preacher, not a good Negro preacher. Doors will be opening to you now that were closed in the past. You have got to resolved, therefore, to do your job so well it cannot be excelled.

On Love

I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. …

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