Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Remembered

When Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered one of the first things that usually comes to mind is his "I Have A Dream Speech". I prefer to call attention to his April 1967 oration at the Riverside Church entitled: Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence.

This was a controversial yet powerful MLK presentation. What King was doing here was moving beyond the role of "civil rights leader" to a vocal role of opposing the US Government and its' prosecution of the war in Vietnam. This position certainly did not win King many friends in powerful places. Is it a coincidence that he was gunned down a year to the day of delivering this homily.

King wasn't perfect, but then again none of us are. In this Riverside Church speech he emerged as a moral leader and spokesman and demonstrated a courage is rare in any era.

Finally, 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.

This 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.

And 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.

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