Before I got sick, I would post every year on this occasion my favorite speech of King’s, that I know of or have ever heard, in its entirety. It was delivered by Dr. King in my much loved, adopted home town at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, and entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. When I last wrote about it here in 2017 I said this:
It has become my tradition on this day of remembrance to post the text of a speech delivered by Dr. King on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence (audio recording here), along with a short commentary about why I believe these words are so important. The speech is truly magnificent, yet it tends to be given short shrift relative to other works of the slain civil rights leader.
King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is of course his most well-known and celebrated. He gave it from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the closing of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and major television networks broadcast it live. The text is short (by King’s standards) and is notable for, among other things, painting a vivid picture of what racial justice looks like.
“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is also frequently cited. He wrote it in response to an April 12, 1963 open letter by eight white Alabama clergymen, who took issue with King and his tactics. Its central focus is a beautiful, powerful defense of non-violent activism. But what always strikes me most about it is King’s crushing disappointment upon learning that the greatest enemies to social progress are not, in fact, those who are openly and hatefully opposed to it, but those “allies” who rend their garments and advocate moderation, patience and gradualism in the face of immediate, deadly and enduring injustice. King held up a mirror, and in doing so, he showed us what ally-ship looks like.
Four years later, he spoke the words of Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Here, he showed us exactly how inextricably linked are the battles against discrimination, oppression, poverty, injustice, and many other social ills to the evils of war. This is a broader, much more sweeping vision; in my opinion, these are his finest words. Yes, there are religious references. Yet King tethers these to his eloquent defenses of secular ideas of justice, compassion and love to make the same case; in this way they function to bolster his arguments (for the religious-minded) instead of standing in for them.
As King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We have a lot of work to do.
I have nothing to add to that today (nor, apparently, the energy and focus to do so even if I had wanted to. *sigh*). Speech below the cut. [Source.]