Deciding to stick to love

Published February 15, 2024

By Tom Campbell

Our Sunday School class has been studying a series called, “Share the Dream,” lessons from Martin Luther King. Each of the six lessons involves a principle that shaped Dr. King’s life and on which he based the Civil Rights Movement.

The first lesson, appropriately, is love. One of King’s most quoted principles involves his repeated declaration, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” King continued, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

My mind started humming the song from my radio DJ days. Jackie DeShannon’s hit declared,

                                                              What the world needs now is love, sweet love.          

                                                                It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

                                                               What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.

                                                                No not just for some, but for everyone.

We need to sing and live these words more today than we did during those Civil Rights and Vietnam war days. It is more than happenstance that, February, the month of Valentines and love is also when we observe Black History Month.

I grew up in the era of segregated schools, of white and colored water fountains in the Pitt County courthouse, of theatres with balconies where Blacks were relegated, and when rampant racism was the order of the day.

I vividly remember the giant billboard as you entered Johnston County


Unfortunately, too many still harbor those “love it or leave it” beliefs today. Maybe not overtly, but the subtlety cannot be denied. Too many will loudly recite the Jeffersonian belief from the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. However, their actions bespeak their true belief that some are more equal than others.

The other lessons in this series focus on conscience, justice, freedom, hope and perseverance. The narrators explained the difference between patience and perseverance. Patience, they explained was waiting for justice, waiting for freedom, hoping for equality and love. Perseverance, they continued, doesn’t just wait. It acts.

I believe we have reached a point where action is needed. Certainly not physical violence, but action nonetheless.

When we hear people speaking hateful, demeaning, discriminatory or racist words we cannot sit passively. Without showing anger directed toward the offender, ask: “Did you hear what you just said?” Or maybe, “What did you mean by that comment? What I heard was……”

I’m not suggesting that you set yourself up as a judge or that you act superior to anyone. And understand you aren’t going to win a shouting match or fight. But some don’t realize how what they say might sound to other ears. They might even be repeating what they have heard others say but, if nothing else, you can make the offender recognize that others heard them and how they might have interpreted the remarks. If enough of us question them they might even recognize they are in a minority.

We’ve got work to do and it is no longer just being patient. It is time to boldly decide to act on love. Don’t be afraid. In this world where we are surrounded by divisive and hate-filled speech it’s decision time. As King said, “And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.”

I can hear some trying to deflect the conversation by listing MLK’s perceived sins. Like all of us King had demons. But just as God worked through sins of Moses, King David and others, MLK inspired us to become a better people.

Martin Luther King was labeled an extremist and in his letter from the Birmingham jail he responded, “So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?”

King decided to love.

What’s your decision?

Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965.  Contact him at