“Agape is more than aesthetic or romantic love; agape is more than friendship. Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say it is the love of God operating in the human heart. And when one rises to love on this level, he loves the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said “Love your enemies,” and I am happy he didn’t say, “Like your enemies,” because it is pretty difficult to like some people, and I must confess I find it hard some of the things that Sen. Eastland and Sen. Stennis and Sen. Thurmond and Gov. Wallace and Gov. Barnett are doing. I really find it difficult to like what they are doing and to like them, but Jesus said love them, and love is greater than like. Love is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men. And when it becomes a great and powerful love, it becomes a demanding love which demands justice. It becomes a love that says in substance, “You are your brother’s keeper, and you have a moral responsibility to lead him from his evil ways.” And I think this is the kind of love ethic, I think this is the kind of attitude, that will help us rise from dark yesterdays to bright and noble tomorrows.
I think it will help those of us who have been on the oppressed end emerging with the right attitude. We will not seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, thereby subverting justice. We will not seek to substitute one tyranny for another. We will know that a doctrine of black supremacy is as dangerous as the doctrine of white supremacy, and that God is not interested merely in the freedom of brown men and yellow men and black men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race and the creation of a society where all men will live together as brothers, and every man will respect the dignity and the worth of human personality. So with hard, determined work, undergirded by a philosophy of nonviolence, I believe we will be able to go this additional distance in the days ahead.
If we are to solve this problem, men and women of good will, students all over this country must develop a sort of divine discontent. You know, there are certain technical words within every academic discipline that soon become stereotypes and clichés. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature. Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than other word in psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.”
Certainly we all want to live the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But I must honestly say to you tonight, my friends, that there are some things in our nation and some things in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted, in which I call all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized.
I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never intend to become adjusted to economic conditions which will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence, for in a day when Sputniks and Explorers are dashing through outer space, and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer the choice between violence and nonviolence, it either nonviolence or nonexistence. The alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations, and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation.
So it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment, men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”; as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could etch across the pages of history words lifted to cosmic proportions, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights , and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”; as maladjusted as Jesus Christ, who could say to the men and women around the hills of Galilee, “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you,” and who could go on to say, “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” Through such maladjustment, we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.
And I say to you that I still have faith in America, and I have still have the faith to believe that we will solve this problem. We have the resources in this nation to solve it and I believe that gradually we are gaining the will to solve it, and that is developing a coalition of conscience on the question of racial injustice, and I would hope that in the days ahead, the forces of goodwill will work even harder in order to go this additional distance in order to make the brotherhood of man a reality all over America.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech to Penn State University
Jan. 21, 1965