19 January 2009

January 19, 2009

Today, I went to a celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. On stage, actors recreated some of King's most impactful speeches. It struck me that the majority of nods and claps of agreement came from the excerpts of his "The Importance of Vietnam" speech. I'd like to quote parts of this speech here and contemplate the meaning of these words at this time in our history, and most importantly on this day in our history.

"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.

"Some 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 us."

-April 4, 1967

For the whole speech and other prominent speeches, please visit blackpast.org

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