Take the First Step in Faith. You Don’t Have To See the Whole Staircase, Just Take the First Step

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.

Continue reading Take the First Step in Faith. You Don’t Have To See the Whole Staircase, Just Take the First Step

Notes:

  1. 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)

Life’s Most Persistent and Urgent Question Is, “What Are You Doing for Others?”

Martin Luther King Jr.? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A speech by the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. included a section about the importance of altruism versus selfishness; he posed the following question:

What are you doing for others?

Would you please help me to locate this quotation?

Quote Investigator: The 1963 collection “Strength to Love” by Martin Luther King Jr. included a sermon titled “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” which contained the following passage. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

In a sense every day is judgment day, and we, through our deeds and words, our silence and speech, are constantly writing in the Book of Life.

Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life’s Most Persistent and Urgent Question Is, “What Are You Doing for Others?”

Notes:

  1. 1963, Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr., Sermon: Three Dimensions of a Complete Life, Start Page 67, Quote Page 72, Published by Harper & Row, New York. (Verified on paper)

Of All the Forms of Inequality, Injustice in Health Is the Most Shocking and Inhuman

Martin Luther King Jr.? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: While reading about the economics of health care I came across the following statement attributed to the famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.:

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.

A writer at “The Huffington Post” website attempted to trace this quotation and obtained first-hand testimony from an attendee at a human rights convention in 1966 who stated that King did make this remark, but King used the word “inhuman” instead of ‘inhumane”. 1 Would you please explore this topic? Perhaps contemporaneous documentary evidence can be located.

Quote Investigator: There is substantive evidence that Martin Luther King Jr. did make a statement that was nearly identical to the modern version given above. On Saturday, March 26, 1966 multiple newspapers published an article from the Associated Press (AP) newsgathering organization about a press conference held in Chicago on the night of Friday, March 25. The annual meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights was being held, and King spoke to journalists before he was scheduled to deliver an address to conference attendees. King’s theme was the disparate medical care received by blacks. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2 3

“We are concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.

“I see no alternative to direct action and creative nonviolence to raise the conscience of the nation.”

Modern renditions of the quotation contain the terms “health care” or “healthcare”, but the concurrent AP report indicated that King simply said “health”. Also, King used the word “inhuman” instead of “inhumane” according to the AP.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Of All the Forms of Inequality, Injustice in Health Is the Most Shocking and Inhuman

Notes:

  1. Website: The Huffington Post, Article title: Tracking Down Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Words on Health Care, Article Author: Amanda Moore (Staff attorney-legal editor, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law), Timestamp on website: January 18, 2013 4:00 pm EST, Timestamp of update on website: March 20, 2013 5:12 am EDT, Website description: News, blogs and original content offering coverage of politics, entertainment, style, world news, technology and comedy. (Accessed huffingtonpost.com on October 22, 2015) link
  2. 1966 March 26, Mt. Vernon Register News, King Charges Negro Medical Care Inferior (Associated Press), Quote Page 5, Column 3, Mt. Vernon, Illinois. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1966 March 26, Racine Journal Times, Dr. King Bitterly Flays Health Care Given Negroes (Associated Press), Quote Page 2B, Column 5 and 6, Racine, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)