come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because
my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in
this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims
and work of the organization which has brought us together:
Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement
of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart
and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening
lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal."
That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which
they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by
the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task
of opposing their government's policy, especially in time
of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty
against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's
own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the
issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case
of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being
mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
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. We must speak with all the humility
that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.
And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first
time in our nation's history that a significant number of
its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying
of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent
based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history.
Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us
trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being
may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need
of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around
the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal
of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own
heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction
of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom
of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has
often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war,
Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace
and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the
cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though
I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless
greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers
have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed,
their questions suggest that they do not know the world in
which they live.
the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal
importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely,
why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate
- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.
come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to
my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or
to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China
or to Russia.
is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation
and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam.
Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National
Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role
they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While
they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of
the good faith of the United States, life and history give
eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved
without trustful give and take on both sides.
however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather
to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility
in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both
Importance of Vietnam
I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that
I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field
of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious
and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and
the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A
few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle.
It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor
- both black and white - through the poverty program. There
were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup
in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated
as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone
mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the
necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor
so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and
skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.
So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy
of the poor and to attack it as such.
the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it
became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating
the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and
their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily
high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We
were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our
society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee
liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest
Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced
with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV
screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has
been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So
we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor
village, but we realize that they would never live on the
same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of
such cruel manipulation of the poor.
third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for
it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North
over the last three years - especially the last three summers.
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young
men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would
not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest
compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change
comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they
asked - and rightly so - what about Vietnam? They asked
if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to
solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.
Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could 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.
For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government,
for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our
violence, I cannot be silent.
those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights
leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement
for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group
of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America."
We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain
rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction
that America would never be free or saved from itself unless
the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from
the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with
Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath -
America will be!
it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any
concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore
the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned,
part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved
so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world
over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that
America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent,
working for the health of our land.
if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health
of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility
was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel
Prize for Peace was also a commission - a commission to work
harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood
of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national
allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have
to live with 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 speaking against the war. Could
it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for
all men - for Communist and capitalist, for their children
and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative?
Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the
one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?
What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro
or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten
them with death or must I not share with them my life?
as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that
leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all
that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to
my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be
a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation
or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and
because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially
for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come
tonight to speak for them.
I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us
who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which
are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond
our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called
to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our
nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from
human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself
for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes
constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not
of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon,
but simply of the people who have been living under the curse
of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of
them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful
solution there until some attempt is made to know them and
hear their broken cries.
must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people
proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined
French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution
in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted
the American Declaration of Independence in their own document
of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided
to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.
government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready"
for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western
arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for
so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary
government seeking self-determination, and a government that
had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese
have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that
included some Communists. For the peasants this new government
meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in
nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam
the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported
the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam.
the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French
war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien
Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we
did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military
supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the
will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this
tragic attempt at re-colonization.
the French were defeated it looked as if independence and
land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements.
But instead there came the United States, determined that
Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the
peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious
modern dictators - our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants
watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition,
supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to
discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched
as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by
increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the
insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was
overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of
military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change - especially
in terms of their need for land and peace.
only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments
in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept
and without popular support. All the while the people read
our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy
- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and
consider us - not their fellow Vietnamese - the real enemy.
They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the
land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal
social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be
destroyed by our bombs. So they go - primarily women and
children and the aged.
watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres
of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through
their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They
wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties
from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted
injury. So far we may have killed a million of them - mostly
children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of
the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs
on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded
by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children
selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their
do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords
and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning
land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons
on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new
tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the
roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building?
Is it among these voiceless ones?
have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the
family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their
crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's
only non-Communist revolutionary political force - the unified
Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants
of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and
killed their men. What liberators?
there is little left to build on - save bitterness. Soon
the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found
at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration
camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder
if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these?
Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them
and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our
the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak
for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of
the National Liberation Front - that strangely anonymous
group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us
in America when they realize that we permitted the repression
and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being
as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of
our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up
of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we
speak of "aggression from the north" as if there
were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust
us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous
reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour
every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must
understand their feelings even if we do not condone their
actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed
them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized
plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
do they judge us when our officials know that their membership
is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist
on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking
when they know that we are aware of their control of major
sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national
elections in which this highly organized political parallel
government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of
free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled
by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder
what kind of new government we plan to help form without them
- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question
our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement
from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly
relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth
again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?
is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence
when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear
his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from
his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own
condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and
profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the
too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel
the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met
by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is
to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially
their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the
men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese
and the French, the men who sought membership in the French
commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and
the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led
a second struggle against French domination at tremendous
costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled
between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary
measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with
Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought
Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized
they had been betrayed again.
we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must
be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi
considered the presence of American troops in support of the
Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the
Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind
us that they did not begin to send in any large number of
supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens
remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about
the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the
president claimed that none existed when they had clearly
been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of
peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard
of the increasing international rumors of American plans for
an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling
and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion
strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can
save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world
speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a
poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from
this point I should make it clear that while I have tried
in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless
on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are
called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there
as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting
them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that
goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to
destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for
they must know after a short period there that none of the
things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before
long they must know that their government has sent them into
a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely
realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure
while we create hell for the poor.
Madness Must Cease
this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child
of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak
for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are
being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak
for the poor of America who are paying the double price of
smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam.
I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands
aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to
the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this
war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently
one of them wrote these words:
day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of
the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian
instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into
becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans,
who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military
victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring
deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America
will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and
democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the
mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in
Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation
is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain
from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into
a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we
do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately
the world will be left with no other alternative than to see
this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided
world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be
able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been
wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that
we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people.
The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply
from our present ways.
order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should
take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government
should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process
of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
all bombing in North and South Vietnam
a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will
create the atmosphere for negotiation.
immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast
Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our
interference in Laos.
accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial
support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any
meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam
in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.
of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an
offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his
life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front.
Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we
have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed,
making it available in this country if necessary.
we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while
we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful
commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation
persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared
to match actions with words by seeking out every creative
means of protest possible.
we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify
for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with
the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to
say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy
students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend
it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable
and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of
draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek
status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for
real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when
our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive
its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide
on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must
is something seductively tempting about stopping there and
sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular
crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the
struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more
disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper
malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering
reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned
committees for the next generation. They will be concerned
about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand
and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and
South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other
names and attending rallies without end unless there is a
significant and profound change in American life and policy.
Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling
as sons of the living God.
1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed
to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution.
During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of
suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military
"advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social
stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary
action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American
helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia
and why American napalm and green beret forces have already
been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity
in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back
to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make
peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution
by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has
taken - the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible
by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that
come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the
world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution
of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented"
society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines
and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered
more important than people, the giant triplets of racism,
materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the
fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.
On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on
life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One
day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be
transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten
and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True
compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is
not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice
which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution
of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast
of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will
look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the
West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South
America, only to take the profits out with no concern for
the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This
is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed
gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just."
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to
teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A
true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order
and say of war: "This way of settling differences is
not just." This business of burning human beings with
napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows,
of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people
normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody
battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged,
cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation
that continues year after year to spend more money on military
defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual
the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well
lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing,
except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering
our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence
over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from
molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until
we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense
against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never
be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons.
Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided
passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation
in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint
and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist
or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the
United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are
not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days.
We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather
in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest
defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf
of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those
conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are
the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and
People Are Important
are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting
against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out
of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality
are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land
are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in
darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must
support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because
of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our
proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that
initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern
world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This
has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary
spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure
to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions
we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture
the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile
world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and
militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly
challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed
the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every
mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall
be made straight and the rough places plain."
genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that
our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.
Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind
as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual
call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern
beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a
call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.
This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept - so readily
dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly
force - has now become an absolute necessity for the survival
of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental
and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of
the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle
of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which
leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist
belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in
the first epistle of Saint John:
us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth
is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth
not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth
in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the
day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or
bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history
are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History
is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals
that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee
is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of
life and good against the damning choice of death and evil.
Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope
that love is going to have the last word."
are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are
confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding
conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being
too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life
often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost
opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does
not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately
for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every
plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue
of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words:
"Too late." There is an invisible book of life that
faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The
moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We
still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent
must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways
to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing
world - a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act
we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful
corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without
compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long
and bitter - but beautiful - struggle for a new world. This
is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly
for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall
we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be
that the forces of American life militate against their arrival
as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there
be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with
their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the
cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise
we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently
to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
speech and others by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are posted
at Peace Race: The Better Alternative to an Arms Race.
Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
Race home page