10 Martin Luther King Jr. quotes that resonate into work culture

The Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday is, like the man it was named for, a study in the power of perseverance over prejudice. Legislation to create the holiday observing Dr. King’s birthday passed in 1983. The first holidays were finally observed in 1986—but not by every state. It was only 20 years ago, in 2000, that that South Carolina became the last state to make Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday. To this day, Alabama and Mississippi mark the holiday as both Confederate commander Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Martin Luther King Jr.’s.

But the perseverance of Dr. King and his legacy has largely prevailed, as the civil rights leader’s works and words continue to transcend our divisions and keep pointing us toward a better way–in all aspects of our lives. For this year’s holiday, we think it’s fitting to share some of his words that can help inspire you and perhaps motivate you to lift your workplace culture:


“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Accepting Failure

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”


“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”


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


“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”


“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.”

Big-picture vision

“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.”


“There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.”


“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Risk Taking

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”