In honor of Dr. King’s birthday and MLK Day today, I’ve been listening to some of his speeches, kindly provided by the Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/15/martin-luther-king-speeches_n_1205600.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003
Here I mostly offer amateurly chosen & transcribed highlights (errors entirely mine) from those film clips:
It was GREAT soaking up all these ideas and passion, so well expressed and presented by such a master of his craft. Its a pretty random collection – I’ve been juggling Dr King and my 6yo daughter Lily’s needs – she likes an audience, and a technical consultant, for her video games, and she’s a TOUGH taskmaster – “Daddy! Daddy! DADDY!!!!” You get the idea, we’re home together today while Mommy sees patients.
Anyway, here goes:
“I know you’re asking today, How long will it take?… However difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth… will rise… Because you shall reap what you sow… Be jubilant!… We shall overcome, deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome…” Wow… Now try it with his presence and voice! If unmoved by these speeches, check your pulse, and/or your soul – it may well be that you’re a robot and no one told you about it…
“… we will go out and adjourn the councils of despair, and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism… able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and this will be a great America, we will be the participants in making it so… Walk together, children, don’t you get weary!”
“… One hundred years later [than Lincoln’s announcement at Gettysburg of the Emancipation Proclamation], the Negro still is not free… sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination… a lonely island of poverty is the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity… languishing in the corner of American society… in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today [to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.]. In a sense we hace come here today to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promisary note, to which every American was the full heir… a promise that all men… would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissary note, in so far as its citizens of color are concerned… America has given the Negro people a bad check… But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt… We’ve come to cash this check… a check that will bring us the riches of freedom and the security of justice… to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy… to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This… will not pass. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning… in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle in the high plain of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community, must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brother… have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone… There are those who ask the devotees of Civil Rights, when will we be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality… cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities… a Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one… our children stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs saying for whites only… a negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote… No, we will not be satisfied until justice rolls like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream… you have been the veterans of creative suffering… honor in suffering is redemptive. Go back… knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live up to the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day… the sons of slaves and the sons of slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood… my four little children will live in a country where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… and the crooked places will be made straight… With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood… to go to jail together… to stand up for freedom together… and that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring… and when this happens… we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing, in the words of that old Negro spiritual, Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
“And the time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war [Vietnam]. I have chosen to preach on Vietnam today because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one… The truth must be told… Many have questioned the wisdom of my path… Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say… [But] I am determined to take the Gospel seriously… I knew that America would never the sufficient funds or energies in rehabilitation of the poor, so long as adventures like Vietnam continue to draw men and skills and money like some demonic suction tube… We spend $500,000 to kill every enemy soldier, while we spend $53 for each person classified as poor, and much of that $53 goes for salaries to people who are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor… the war was doing more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportion, compared to the rest of the population… 8000 miles away, to guarantee the liberties in South East Asia which they have not found in South West Georgia and East Harlem… a cruel irony of watching on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room… As I walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. But they ask, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems… And I knew I can never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos, without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government. America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery, when I stood before thousands of Negros getting ready to riot when my home was bombed, and said we can’t do it this way… in the sit-in movement, when we nonviolently decided to sit in at lunch counters… on the freedom rides, when we accepted blows without retaliation. Oh, the press were so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise, when I said to be non-violent towards Bull Connor. There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say be nonviolent… but will curse and damn you when you say be nonviolent towards little brown Vietnamese children, there’s something wrong with that press… the Nobel Peace Prize was not just something taking place, it was a commission, a commission to work harder than I ever have before, for the brotherhood of man… the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ – to me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am preaching against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men… for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemy so fully that He died for them? What, then, can I say to the Viet Cong, or Castro, or Mao, as a faithful minister to Jesus Christ? Can I threaten them with death? Or must I not share with them my life? There will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know these people and hear their broken cries. And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? Its a man by the name of General Kee, who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occasion that the greatest hero of his life was Hitler? This is who we are supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government and the press generally won’t tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning… the truth must be told… We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family, and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of nation who makes peaceful revolutions impossible, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.”
I have to wonder what Dr. King would think of our loss in Vietnam after 100,000 American soldiers’ deaths, a defeat purported all along to lead certainly to a domino series of nations falling to Communism, but did no such thing? I wonder what he would think of Grenada (does anyone really believe that invasion was anything more than Reagan grandstanding? GRENADA a threat to our way of life?), of Panama, of a $trillion (that’s a thousand billions, $2000 for every American man, woman, and child) war to seize fictional “weapons of mass destruction” and replace a dangerous dictator with… another dangerous dictator, this time a friend of Iran? Of our longest war ever, in Afghanistan, defending heroin production, warlords, and a local President who shows us utter contempt, against terrorists harbored by another so-called ally (on whom we spend $billions more), for whom those terrorists are long-standing clients? Of how much we now spend per terrorist killed, out of our dwindling wealth and credit rating, only to thereby recruit at least one more? (How about a $million per soldier per year in Afghanistan?) Of how much we spend every day incarcerating millions, many for minimally harmful drug abuse, and sharply disproportionately black, spending money we no longer have to ensure that the future of millions will offer only criminality and more expensive incarceration? Of the millions we spend, perhaps a million dollar per every case, on executions? Of our near-absolute worship of wealth and the wealthy compared to the America of 50 years ago, of a national wealth distribution rapidly approaching that of a banana republic? Of America’s appalling indifference and apathy in the face of these trends, except for the Occupy Movement – all anger and protest, not much beyond street theater. What would he make of all this? Perhaps, You shall reap what you sow. And likely, get to to work, people, with MUCH better wording.
Oh, one more passage:
“All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper. If I lived in China or in Russia or in a totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions… the suspension of certain basic First Amendment priveleges, because they haven’t committed themselves to that over there, burt somewhere I read of the Freedom of Assembly… of the Freedom of Speech… of the Freedom of Press… that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so just as I say we aren’t going to let any dogs or any water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. Well, I don’t know know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn’t really matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop… Like anyone else, I would like to live a long life, longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He has allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land! So I’m happy tonight, I’m not worried about any thing, I’m not fearing any man! My eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord!”
Dr King was assassinated the very next day after he gave this, his last speech (only the last part included above). Now that, my friends, is an American leader, and an American hero. In his death, all Americans lost a priceless treasure that should never be forgotten.