Pledge of Nonviolence

“Today there is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” 

- Excerpted from a 1967 interview of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Arnold Michaelis

“Every King Holiday has been a national ‘teach-in’ on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately needed to unify America.”

- Coretta Scott King, “The Meaning of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday”

As we turn our attention to the King Holiday and pause to remember the accomplishments of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we note that 2008 marked 40 years since his assassination. Thus, it is especially important to connect the MLK Day of Service more intentionally with the principles upon which Dr. King built his life, his service, and the movement that he championed—the principles of nonviolence. He believed that applying the principles of nonviolence in all areas of one’s life would ultimately bring about the Beloved Community, the end goal of nonviolence, where differences are resolved peaceably and reconciliation occurs among adversaries.

To connect the King Holiday to the example Dr. King set and to engage more Americans in honoring him through service, the Corporation is joining with others in its network to provide tools for the “40 Days of Nonviolence: Building the Beloved Community” initiative.

On the King Holiday and during the 40 days that follow, individuals and organizations participating in the initiative would:

  • Study, discuss, and reflect upon the principles of nonviolent action as a strategy for bringing about stronger communities;
  • Examine the structures in their communities that lead to violence and engage in projects that address those underlying issues;
  • Plan for 40 days beginning with the King Holiday and implement sustainable service activities to extend throughout the year and beyond.

These elements reflect the fundamental steps in Dr. King’s vision for nonviolent social change: information gathering, education, personal commitment, negotiations, direct action, and reconciliation. What better learning mechanism can there be than one in which everyone can be actively engaged in their community?

40 Days of Nonviolence: Building The Beloved Community will have a powerful and lasting impact on the reach of the King Day of Service campaign. Linking the powerful principles of nonviolence with the tradition of service brings contemporary stature to a historical movement in our country and contemporary meaning to the unfinished work of Dr. King. Linking service more directly to the teachings of Dr. King provides a great opportunity to educate youth and others who have little or no knowledge of this important part of American history and to engage them in service that is grounded in his teachings and creates lasting change.


  • Building The Beloved Community Through the Principles and Steps of Nonviolence
    For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.  For resources that encompass further study of nonviolence, peace, Dr. King's teachings, and methods of community engagement and strengthening,  click here.
  • From Community Assessment to Community Action
    Community assessment involves identifying both the strengths and weaknesses of a community. For resources on conducting a community assessment and planning and implementing the response to that assessment, click here.
  • Projects:  A Day of Service
    For resources to help you plan a service project appropriate for MLK day, click here.
  • From a Day of Service to a Social Change Movement
    For resources to help you implement ongoing service projects that build the Beloved Community, click here.
  • Engaging and Managing Volunteers
    For tools and best practices to help you manage volunteers effectively, click here.
  • Curricula
    For curricula that supports ongoing learning about Dr. King, conflict resolution and strategies for infusing learning into project planning, click here.
  • Reflection Guides
    An important part of any service project is reflection.  This is especially important for MLK Day of Service projects to ground them in the example and teachings of Dr. King.  For materials to support reflection, click here.

Note: The documents referenced above contain clickable links to a number of resources from both the government and non-government sources.

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