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MLK's influence on you: Your e-mails

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(CNN) -- Almost 40 years after his death, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision continue to provide hope and inspiration to the world.

As part of the special report "MLK: Words that Changed a Nation," CNN asked readers how King's words and actions influenced them.

Here is a selection of the latest responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

Angela Jenkins, Champaign, Illinois
The words of Dr. King have changed my life because they make you believe. They make you believe the things that seem impossible are possible. They are words from God being sent to us through a man who has faith and courage beyond what any ordinary man inhabits. His words are encouraging when I feel discouraged and they make you want to go on when you feel defeated. His words give me pride, because of who he is, I feel the possibilities for my own.

Marquiette Criswell, Chicago, Illinois
Dr. King's words, life, and death affected me greatly. I was a young girl when he lived and died. In fact, at the age of 9, I watched from my window as the westside of Chicago went up in smoke in response to his assassination. ... I listen to his speeches today and I am deeply moved. ... His words and actions inspire me to speak out against unfair acts and injustices that I observe. He inspired me to speak out against the illegal war in Iraq. He inspires me to look at what's best for those who are less fortunate. He inspires me to think!

Brian Emery, Las Vegas, Nevada
I was born after King's death. But I remembered learning about him at a very young age. The first book I ever read was a biography of Dr. King. Although I'm a white male born and raised in southeastern Indiana, his words and actions has had a profound effect on how I look at the world. I only wish his Dream can be truly fulfilled. We must learn to understand that we have in common is much more powerful than what separates us.

Dee Washington, Covington, Georgia
It is because of Dr. King that I have been inspired to continue my education and complete my MBA in February. He has inspired me to be a strong black woman and encourage my son to be great not only physically but, more importantly, mentally so that he may continue to keep Dr. King's dream alive by excelling in school and in his community. It has inspired me to foster a positive strong black family unit and to continuously prove in every way possible that we as African American people are NOT those negative sterotypes that they said we were but we are a great people. [W]e owe not just today but everyday to Dr. King and other great black leaders who died and struggled to make something as simple as writing this email to voice my opinion possible today!

Steve Levesque, Little Elm, Texas
Yes, Dr. King's words and deeds have made a big impression on me and has influenced my life by showing that one man CAN make a meaningful difference.

Suzy Coyle, Los Feliz, California
Dr. King shaped my life without my knowing. I grew up in the 70's in a multi- cultural environment. All the little rich white kids (myself) were bused to downtown LA to a pretty much all black and Korean school. It was the best experience of my life. Because Dr. King set the stage for racial harmony, I grew up not seeing color. All my friends were of different races and color but I didn't know it. They were all just my friends. I lived Dr. King's dream and continue to live it. I still cry and get shivers when I hear his speeches. He was divinely guided. God bless him. He lives on. Some people never die.

Marge Bermann, El Monte, California
As a Latina I am proud to say that MLK, Jr. is my hero and a shining example of sacrifice for the common good. As a preacher he lived scripture to its fullest, as a businessman he led the world into peaceful demonstration that is still utilized today to affect change, as a father and husband he provided a glimpse to America of the cost of public service, and as a black man he opened up his heart and arms and invited all of those oppressed to go with him into the battle, a battle still being fought today. Without MLK Jr., I would not be where I am today nor would I have enjoyed the freedoms I enjoy and will continue to enjoy and pass onto my children and future grandchildren. As a community leader I have MLK as a role model and as a Christian I have his words which still echo loudly their truth related to poverty, war and racism.

Sean Bedford, Austin, Texas
Dr. King's words made me realize that I can achieve the "American Dream" just like any other person. I am just the same as any other person in this world. I will continue to work hard and live a nonviolent life and tell all that if you truly believe in something, then it's your duty to fight for it.

Michelle Gawley, Nashville, Tennessee
I have a son. He is almost 4 years old now. In my 30 years, I have only been studying King's life with great interest for the past 4 or 5 years. I think he is one of the most amazing persons I will ever know. I want my son to know about him and admire him for what he was -- truly a good soul with the best intentions. ... He gave such amazing and hopeful speeches and you always felt like he was telling you the truth.

Alex Ayala, San Jose, California
King's words have influenced and changed the world. Who would have thought that nearly 40 years after his death, his speeches and letters would become some of the most inspiring documents in history? In his nonviolent quest for equality, King did more for everyone, including whites, than any other leader in history.

Ken Kinnett, Flat Rock, North Carolina
Having grown up as a prejudiced Southerner in Atlanta, I experienced a 180-degree turnabout in the spring of 1966 [when] I felt called into the ministry. At that moment I realized Dr. King was not "the problem" but was shining light on folks like me who WERE the problem. I came to practice what Jesus taught that all men and women are my brothers and sisters.

Stacey Mason, Smithville, Missouri
Dr. King opened the doors of opportunity for the life I lead now -- married to a man of a different race, raising a biracial daughter. Our family will always be indebted to Dr. King and his family.

Christian Ragland, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the reason for my future endeavors as we speak. As a senior in high school at this point, I have figured out what my passion is, and it is being the voice in politics for those who can't speak for themselves. His example of showing integrity and being humble helped me in many great ways. His ability to lead when danger lurks about is incredible. So from his words that I enjoy hearing, I vow to myself everyday not to give up but to keep fighting for what is right and to never forget where I come from.

Steve Carter, Fridley, Minnesota
... He gave us all hope and still today we have hope, not just for blacks, but for all people. ... I have a lot of his speeches on cassette tape. I still listen to them before I go to sleep at night. I just loved the way his sermons went. He just made a believer when he spoke. He was a class act. He is one of my heroes, and that is compared to my Father who is #1 and Muhammad Ali who I admire as much as Dr. King. ... And if you listen to him speak back then, some of his sayings are true today.

Noel Harshman, Lansing, Michigan
Having been brought up in a white environment, it was quite a change to become grandparents of biracial twin boys almost 15 years ago. I began thinking more about the nonviolent fight Dr. King fought. I worried about the kind of world in which my grandsons would grow up. Would they be denied jobs, education, or become victims of hate crimes? ... Now, in addition to our wonderful grandsons, we have two biracial granddaughters, 4 and 5 years old. ... My world has been impacted by Dr. King, his fight, and his words. But my world has been jarred to its very foundation by the intense love I have for my four grandkids and my determination to do what I can to make sure they grow up with the opportunities that are as much their right as anyone else's.

Odie Farris III, Mount Vernon, Illinois
Rev. King's belief that all people can be loved is an important issue I face. I see hatred, sometimes coming from powers-that-be that affect families across a town. But then I see children smile and laugh with hope in their actions and that leads me to Rev. King's words that with non-violence one can realize/see/understand/grasp/believe in miracles in our very own backyard and everyday.

Danielle Pollock, Boynton Beach, Florida
Dr. King's vision has paved the way for my life. I have been empowered by his Dream speech; I was moved the first time I heard it. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." I thought, just as his children, I, too, one day would live in a nation where I would not be judged by the color my skin but by the content of my character. Therefore, I wanted to have the best character I could muster. As I grew older, I understood the rest of his speech.

Daryl Forehand, Lakeland, Florida
The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed my life. I was just a little boy growing up in the South. Seeing an African American [who was] intelligent, educated, articulate and nonviolent gave me hope. Today I am all that he spoke about and more the embodiment of a successful black man because of the legacy he gave to others. Thank God and the King family for lending him to us.

R. Lucas, Warrenton, North Carolina
I'm a second-grade teacher and I have a picture of Dr. King in the front of my class. Under the picture I have the words THINK DIFFERENT. I teach mostly African American students and I see that the ability to be original, to think different than what society tells you that you should be or how to dress or how to walk and talk is a constant uphill battle. The media has a grip upon our children that is insidious and down right frightening. I find myself even struggling with it with my own children and I think that my husband and I are pretty conscious of social issues. ... I still have the DREAM, but I am dismayed when I have a 7 year old in my class asking another classmate are they Blood or Crip and then professing to be one of them. My response: You are going to be more than that -- a doctor, lawyer, scientist, teacher, judge or even the president of the United States.

Margaret Whitcomb, Ashland, Oregon
Martin Luther King Jr.'s words, beliefs, and actions continue to give me hope and faith that change will happen, the inspiration to understand and change inequalities, and to dream of a time where all people can be recognized as human beings.

Mark, Freeport, Illinois
Thousands of years from now people will still be learning of the words and actions of this great man.

Marilyn Levy, Los Angeles, California
No single American's -- or human being's -- words affected me more than Dr. King's. He died on my 12th birthday, and I had admired his nonviolence and inclusion stance since I was 10. His words still influence me. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.'s words, philosophy, and more so, actions, remind me of the world this could be. Despite all the ugliness of war, prejudice, violence and poverty that exists, they still give me hope, knowing there is a better way, and that love and education can change all that is ugly and unfair, and will always fill me with hope and faith in humanity.

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A collection of Martin Luther King Jr.'s papers features drafts of famous speeches as well as documents from his college days.


• Gallery: Documents: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


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