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In this quote, Martin Luther King Jr. is pointing out that while poverty itself has existed throughout human history, what has changed is that modern society now possesses the abilities and means to eliminate widespread lack.
Technological and economic advances have given nations more than enough total wealth and knowledge to ensure all people have their basic needs met. However, King notes that the limiting factor is not ability but willingness – it comes down to whether societies have the collective will and determination to properly prioritize ending poverty among their aims.
His implication was that with the tools and resources available, continuing poverty is no longer inevitable but is rather a result of insufficient commitment to address the problem from those in power.
Birthday: January 15, 1929 – Died (assassinated) April 4, 1968