10 Disability Awareness Lessons Learned From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King

My children and I read a book titled, “My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Martin Luther King, III. mlk bookIt’s a warm, intimate biography that explains a turning point in American history from the perspective of a child. At the heart of the book are the lessons that Dr. King modeled for us in his lifetime regarding nonviolence, personal excellence, interdependence and justice.

As I plan for my children’s future, I find myself returning to those lessons for guidance. Human rights are for everyone, and we still have a long way to go on our journey. Here are 10 quotes from Dr. King that are relevant to human rights and disability awareness.

1. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

2. “It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.”

Every time we choose to stand up for someone being treated unjustly, we are in fact standing up for everyone. When I advocate for the best services for my son, I am also advocating for future students.

3. “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”

Dr. King traveled to India to learn more about nonviolent resistance in April 1959. This quote comes from a radio speech delivered on his last day in India. It’s a good reminder that being visible and gentle in our words and actions will have a more lasting impact than hurtful behavior.

4. “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

There’s plenty of fear surrounding disabilities and disability awareness, but organizations like the Friendship Circle prove that personal relationships can break down walls of misunderstanding.

5. “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.”

One of my maternal fears is that my son will regress, because I’ve seen him lose and re-learn basic skills many times. Every step forward is a source of pride and a cause for celebration!

6. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

I love this quote and the next one because they describe perfectly my son’s attitude about life. Greatness is all around us, if we are willing to open our eyes and cherish it.

7. “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

8. “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. ”

This quote comes from the “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech of August 1967. Superficial concern allows prejudice and injustice to continue, but authentic compassion changes lives for the better. I have seen this effect in my son’s developmental progress and in the barriers to inclusion that he has overcome.

9. “Without love, there is no reason to know anyone, for love will in the end connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts.”

Interdependence is the goal of social skills classes, group speech therapy and group projects. Love is the basis for valuing each person’s contribution.

10. “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” 


Karen Wang

Written on 2014/01/20 by:

Karen Wang

Karen Wang is a Friendship Circle parent. You may have seen her sneaking into the volunteer lounge for ice cream or being pushed into the cheese pit by laughing children. She is a contributing author to the anthology "My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities"