[Never Forget] Man of Peace was Locked-Up and Assassinated

Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.; January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. He was the son of early civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Sr..


January 16, 2021 at 9:12 PM

By: john whitfield

Breaking the Silence

I 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.

The 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.

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.

Over 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.

In 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.

I 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.

Nor 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.

Beyond Vietnam:

A Time to Break Silence

Rev. Martin Luther King

April 4, 1967

Riverside Church, New York City


Tonight, 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 continents.

Since 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.

Perhaps 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.

My 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.

For 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


O, yes, I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Now, 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.

As 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?

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.

They 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 reconquest of

her former colony.

Our 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 their lives.

For 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 recolonize Vietnam.

Before 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 recolonization.

After 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.


The 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.

They 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 mothers.

What 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?

We 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?

Now 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 brothers.

Perhaps 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.

How 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?

Here 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 opposition.


So, 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.

When 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 of


Hanoi 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 its shores.

At 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.

Somehow 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.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

"Each 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


If 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 to play.


The 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.

In 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:

1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup

in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

4. Realistically 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.

5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part 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.

Meanwhile 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.

As 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 all protest.

There 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.

In 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 inevitable."


Increasingly, 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.

I 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 "personoriented" 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.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and

present policies. n 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 death.

America, 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.

This 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 thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of

communism grows and develops.

These 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 judgement 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 moutain and hill

shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."


A 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 societies.

This 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:

Let 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 says : "Love 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."

We 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 deperately 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 co-annihilation.

We 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.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new

world. This is the callling 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.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once 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.

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