From former President Clinton to rapper Nicki Minaj, politicians and celebrities alike have paid their respects to Martin Luther King Jr. in hundreds of speeches, essays, and tweets over the years.
On the night of King's death, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., gave a heartfelt, impromptu speech in Indianapolis. Just two months later, Kennedy himself would be shot and killed in Los Angeles. On that fateful day in April 1968, Kennedy urged those angry at King's death to spread love and compassion, rather than revenge, and to unite as citizens of the United States.
"We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization—black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another," Kennedy said. "Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love."
Almost a year after King's death, India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi spoke of her admiration for the civil-rights activist, and grief at his loss. King visited Mahatma Gandhi's birthplace in India in 1959.
"Dr. Martin Luther King drew his inspiration from Christ, and his method of action from Mahatma Gandhi," Gandhi said in her address. "Only through truth can untruth be vanquished. Only through love can hatred be quenched. This is the path of the Buddha and of Christ, and in our own times, that of Mahatma Gandhi and of Martin Luther King."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., paid his respects to King before the NAACP's 99th annual convention in July 2008. McCain spoke of King's assassination while the senator was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He told the audience how King's death deeply wounded the morale of the troops, but America's enemies underestimated the strength of King's cause.
"If they had been the more reflective kind, our enemies would have understood that the cause of Dr. King was bigger than any one man, and could not be stopped by force of violence."
In October 2010, Condoleezza Rice described growing up in Birmingham, Ala., in the '50s on The Daily Show. The former secretary of State said that although her parents—both teachers—idolized King, and gave school officials false names of students who marched with King, her father refused to participate in King's nonviolent protests. She remembers standing in the hallway and hearing her father say to her mother, "You know, Angelina, if someone somes after me with a billy club ... I am going to fight back and try to kill him, and then he is going to kill me and my daughter is going to be an orphan." Rice said her father just couldn't see himself following King's example of meeting violence with nonviolence.
On Martin Luther King Day this year, just a week after the Tuscon, Ariz., shootings that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and killed six people, Bill Clinton urged Americans to heed King's message of nonviolence.
"While no one intends their words or actions to incite the violence we saw in Tuscon, and it's wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise," Clinton said, "we live in a world where what we say and how we say it can be read, heard, or seen by those who understand exactly what we mean and by those whose inner demons take them to a very different place."
Here are just a few examples of celebrity tweets referencing the civil-rights activists sent out on the day of his commemoration this year:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Ryan Seacrest
RT@AngelaSimmons: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." Martin Luther King Jr. #MLKDAY - Nicki Minaj
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." - Martin Luther King Jr. - David Archie.
Happy MLK Day! When I talk about "dream projects," I devalue the word this man gave his life redefining. Thank you, MLK, for nobler dreams. - Kevin Smith
today is the day we recognize Martin Luther King as a holiday. Let's reflect on all he did in the name of God - Lenny Kravitz
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. Martin Luther King Jr. - P. Diddy.
What is YOUR dream?????? - P.Diddy
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