Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in January 15th in the year 1929. He was well known as an activist, American clergyman and high up in the African American civil rights movement. He is remembered for being an icon in the advancement of civil rights, both in the United States and globally. He usually used nonviolent means similar to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. In the history of modern American Liberalism, King is usually presented as a hero. On the other hand, at around 500 BC, Lao Tzu was born in southern China in Hunan Province, but, very little is known about him. He wrote a book of spiritual reflections known as the Tao Te Ching, which has been published in numerous other languages. He is regarded as an inspirer. Most of his teachings comprise bright inspiration for the guidance of the human spirit towards what is known as supreme fulfillment. He loved the contemplative way of life full of natural ease and serene spontaneity (Creel, 15).
Both icons have similarities in the way they thought. King had always been against racial segregation that was common during his time. He fought for equality amongst people of all color and different walks of life. His views seem to agree with those of Lao-Tzu's, who became disappointed when the regime, which he had served, refused to walk the path of natural goodness. Lao-Tzu had told advised Confucius, another great philosopher, to strip themselves of their proud airs and many desires, their complacent demeanor, as well as excessive ambitions. In his view, they could not bring any good. He wanted all men to be treated as equals in the society, and that no one should be oppressed. In his part, King always appeared wherever there was injustice, or protest against oppressive laws (Branch, 45).
Martin Luther King had always been inspired by the success of Gandhi in using non-violent activism. After travelling to India, King believed that the use of non-violent resistance was the only way to go on matters dealing with America's struggle for civil rights. He also believed that it was the most effective weapon available for the oppressed in their struggle for human dignity and justice. There is a difference between King's policy of non violent resistance and Lao-Tzu's judicious inactivity.
Lao Tzu shared the views of judicious inactivity. He wrote that Tao always abides in non-action, so nothing will be left undone. So if the government or rulers observed it, things would then develop naturally. However, Lao does not literally mean inaction, but either wise non-action, or action that has come naturally because it reflects the needs of the society. Lao Tzu did predict an eminent rebellion, if any government became oppressive (Lee 230). The two were great philosophers whose differences arose from their core beliefs. While Lao-Tzu believed that the way to happiness for humankind was to connect fully with nature, but not to attempt to control the events of everyday, Martin Luther King believed that humanity should fight evil and correct the wrongs experience in the society.
With comparison, Martin Luther King's philosophy was more similar to that of Confucius. Confucius believed that people must arise and make a social difference by themselves. On the other hand, Lao-Tzu's views of doing nothing was dissimilar to King's approach of doing nothing, if in any case, demonstrators were attacked. Lao-Tzu's view seems to be mystical. Lao He would have recognized that the approach followed by Martin Luther King approach may have appeared to be doing nothing at first (Lee 232). In true sense, it was the final action of a detailed plan that was designed to impact with a very huge social difference. King's followers could plan a place and time that they would demonstrate. They planned on clothes or attires that they would put on, and the action they would take when they did nothing.
Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Lao-Tzu had great influences on a lot of other reformers. Both had followers who compounded and expanded on the beliefs and writings of their respective icons. For example, Zhuangzi was Lao's famous follower in traditional accounts. Zhuangzi did have great deal of influence on Chinese culture, as well as literati.
However, Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th, in the year 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. Posthumously, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the year 1977, in addition to Congressional Gold Medal in the year 2004. Moreover, in 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was consequently established as a United States federal holiday. On the other hand, it is believed that when Lao-Tzu was about eighty years old, he travelled towards the western border of China. He was disillusioned and saddened that men, in the regime he had served, were not willing to follow the path to natural goodness. However, when he reached the border, a guard, Yin Xi, requested that Lao Tzu records his teachings before he went out. It is then that he composed in five thousand characters, what came to be known as the Tao Te Ching, or The Way and Its Power. He has always been regarded as being the founder of Daoism.