Martin Luther King Jr.? Marian Wright Edelman? George Sweeting? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. has received credit for a stimulating remark about faith. Here are two versions:
(1) Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
(2) Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
I haven’t been able to find a citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: Martin Luther King Jr. died in 1968. The earliest published evidence located by QI appeared in the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” of Ohio in 1986. The newspaper interviewed Marian Wright Edelman who was the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Edelman knew King and heard him deliver multiple speeches. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“I was impressed by his leadership, but I think I was impressed even more by the fact that he was an adult and he was not afraid to speak about his uncertainties, his fears,” she said.
“He introduced me to the idea of taking one step, even if you can’t see the whole stairway when you start. I think because of that, I have a much greater capacity to accept failure and move on.”
The excerpt above did not include a direct quotation from King. In addition, it used the word “stairway” instead of “staircase”. The 1991 and 1999 citations presented further below which are also based on Edelman’s memory both contain direct quotations.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1986 March 30, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Section: Living – Panorama – Part 3, Fighting for kids is a full-time job by Deena Mirow (Staff Writer), Quote Page 21, Column 2 thru 4, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank) ↩