Cowardice Asks the Question is it Safe: Quote Explanation

Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent civil rights leader in America who stood for equality and justice for all. He was a man who believed in the power of nonviolence and was willing to go to great lengths to achieve his goals. One of the most famous quotes from Dr. King is, “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.” This quote is a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult.

cowardice asks the question is it safe

The Origin of the Quote

The quote was taken from Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote in April 1963. He wrote this letter in response to criticisms from white religious leaders who opposed his nonviolent protests. In the letter, Dr. King explained his reasons for taking action and his belief that his actions were necessary to bring about change. The quote was part of his response to those who questioned his methods and his motives.

The Meaning Behind the Quote

The quote is a powerful statement about the importance of conscience in decision-making. Dr. King believed that it was not enough to simply do what was safe, politic, or popular. He believed that one had a moral obligation to do what was right, even if it meant taking a position that was unpopular or risky.

The quote is also a commentary on the dangers of cowardice, expediency, and vanity. Cowardice, Dr. King believed, was the result of fear and a lack of moral courage. Expediency was the result of a desire for power and influence, while vanity was the result of a desire for approval and recognition. Dr. King believed that these motives were not sufficient to guide decision-making and that conscience was the only reliable guide.

Dr. King’s quote is also a reminder that doing what is right is not always easy. There are times when taking a stand requires sacrifice and personal risk. Dr. King himself faced numerous threats to his safety and was ultimately assassinated for his beliefs. However, he believed that the cause of justice was worth the risk and that the rewards of doing what was right far outweighed the risks.

Expanding on the Topic

The Importance of Moral Courage

Dr. King’s quote highlights the importance of moral courage in decision-making. Moral courage is the willingness to take a stand for what is right, even when it is difficult or unpopular. It requires a strong sense of personal values and a willingness to act on those values, even in the face of adversity. Without moral courage, it is difficult to make decisions that are truly aligned with one’s values and beliefs.

The Dangers of Groupthink

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of people make decisions that are not necessarily in their best interests, but rather in the interests of the group. This can lead to decisions that are not aligned with personal values or beliefs. Dr. King’s quote is a warning against groupthink and a reminder that personal conscience should guide decision-making, rather than the desires of the group.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

Dr. King’s quote also highlights the importance of self-reflection in decision-making. It is important to take the time to examine one’s values and beliefs and to consider how those values and beliefs inform decision-making. This requires a willingness to be honest with oneself and to acknowledge when one’s actions are not aligned with personal values or beliefs.

The Rewards of Doing What is Right

Dr. King’s quote also suggests that there are rewards for doing what is right, even if those rewards are not immediately apparent. Doing what is right can lead to a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction, as well as a sense of pride in one’s actions. It can also lead to positive social change and a more just society.

    The Importance of Standing Up for Others

    Dr. King’s quote also speaks to the importance of standing up for others. When we see injustice or oppression, it is our moral obligation to take a stand, even if it means putting ourselves at risk. Dr. King believed that we are all connected and that we have a responsibility to care for one another. By standing up for others, we not only help those who are being oppressed, but we also create a more just and compassionate world.


    Dr. King’s quote is a powerful reminder of the importance of conscience in decision-making. It is a call to action to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult or unpopular. It is a warning against the dangers of cowardice, expediency, and vanity, and a reminder of the rewards of doing what is right. As we navigate the complexities of modern life, Dr. King’s words serve as a guide, urging us to be guided by our conscience and to take a stand for justice and equality.

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