Martin Luther King Day was observed this year on Monday, Jan.18 with a federal holiday, originally designated in 1994. On Jan.13, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring King, urging citizens to treat the day as a “day on, not a day off” by participating in service projects and civic engagement.

The following words were written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at various times in his life, and compiled from various Web sites. Best remembered as a spokesman for the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, King was a persuasive orator and a man of faith whose belief in doing what was right stirred others to have courage in the face of almost impossible challenges. Inspired by the words and acts of Mohandas K. Gandhi, King was, above all, a man of peace.

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But … the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.”

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars … Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be … The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

In Belfast, folks gathered at Post Office Square Monday night for a candlelight march to the First Church, where participants read from King’s speeches and writings. They sang songs together, and observed a moment of silence for King and others who lost their lives during the civil rights movement. The gathering took on many moods simultaneously, with readings from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” bringing a serious tone to the observance, while singalongs and music gave the event a peaceful and inclusive feeling.

It served as a reminder of how religion played such a strong role in Dr. King’s teachings, and how it was central to his ability to bring people of many walks of life together for the common goal of attaining equality for all people. It inspires us each time we read or hear one of Dr. King’s speeches today, and it saddens us when we think of some of the ways religion has been used in politics more recently.

Now, instead of being utilized as a way to bring people together, it seems people’s faith is used to highlight what is wrong with the world, and what we should fear. In the debate last year over same-sex marriage in Maine, for example, we saw how religion became a central part of some people’s arguments supporting the repeal of the law. In some instances, it was used to insult and belittle those from the opposing side.

Perhaps what we can take away from Dr. King’s teachings is a return to using religion not as a way to point out the negatives in each other, but as a foundation for peace, and working together toward improving the world around us.

To that sentiment, some might say, “Dream on.” But isn’t a dream what Dr. King is best known for?

Dream on, indeed.