Quotes from Social Justice Leaders


Sometimes the best way to learn about a historical person is to read what they have said or written. Here are some quotes from people who were leaders in promoting social justice. If one of the quotes rings true with you, spend more time getting to know the person who said it. Search out more of his or her quotations, speeches, interviews, or writings. Think about ways you can model your life after him or her.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Click here to go to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s address delivered when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1964, in Oslo, Norway.

Dorothy Day

“The mystery of the poor is this: That they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him. It is the only way we have of knowing and believing in our love. The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.”

—“The Mystery of the Poor” by Dorothy Day. The Catholic Worker, April 1964. Found in “Dorothy Day Library on the Web” at www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday.

Daniel Berrigan, SJ

“... we are that small and assailed and powerless group of people who are nonviolent in principle and who are willing to suffer for our beliefs in the hope of creating something very different for those who will follow us. It is we who feel compelled to ask, along with, let’s say, Bonhoeffer or Socrates or Jesus, how man is to live as a human being and how his communities are to form and to proliferate as instruments of human change and of human justice; and it is we who struggle to do more than pose the questions—but rather, live as though the questions were all-important, even though they cannot be immediately answered.”

—from “A Dialogue With Radical Priest Daniel Berrigan” in Time (March 22, 1971)

César Chávez

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. And you cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

—from “Lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” speech by César Chávez, January 12, 1990