Congress. Senate Committee on Government Operations. Subcommittee on the
Executive Reorganization. Federal Role in Urban Affairs. "Testimony of
the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr." Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1966.
SuDoc No.: Y4.G74/6:Ur1/4/pt.14
Date(s) of Hearings: December 14, 15, 1966
Congress and Session: 89th - 2nd
On December 15, 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. testified before the
Subcommittee on the Executive Reorganization of the Committee on
Government Operations. This group of Senate hearings was devoted
to the plight of the inner cities in America with Martin Luther
King invited to testify because of his commitment to ending racial
and economic discrimination.
King's remarks primarily focussed on the injustices found within the
ghettos of large American cities, however, he also related the situation
to the one in Vietnam. It is apparent that King saw the war as a direct contributor to the
plight of America's poor.
STATEMENT OF THE REVEREND MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
CONFERENCE (SCLC); ACCOMPANIED BY THE REVEREND ANDREW J. YOUNG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN
CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE; AND THE REVEREND WALTER E. FAUNTROY, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON BUREAU,
SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Dr. King. Thank you very kindly, Senator Ribicoff. Let me say how very
delighted I am to be here, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to testify on some of the
vital issues facing our Nation today.
I come before you in a dual role, for the serious problems before your subcommittee affect me in
two ways. As an American citizen, I share the concern for restoring health to our cities and
urban areas -- they are becoming the dominant face of our Nation.
But as an American Negro, I am specifically and passionately concerned with the racial ghettos of
our cities -- for the ghetto exists at the very core of, and is both a part and a cause of our
REBALANCE NATIONAL PRIORITIES
We need a rebalancing of our national priorities. As the Carnegie Quarterly issue that I have
A great deal of (money) is spent in this country every day, for education, and for housing,
freeways, war, national parks, liquor, cosmetics, advertising, and a lot of other things.
It is a question of the allocation of money, which means the establishing of priorities.
Instead of joyfully committing ourselves to the war on poverty, a grudging parsimonious allocation
of resources is measured out as if we feared to overkill. In contrast, the exploration of space
engages not only our enthusiasm but our patriotism. Developing it as a global race, we have
intensified its inherent drama and brought its adventure into every living room, nursery, shop and
office. No such fervor nor exhilaration attends the war on poverty. There is impatience with its
problems, indifference toward its progress, and pronounced hostility toward its errors. Without
denying the value of scientific endeavor, there is a striking absurdity in committing billions to
reach the moon where no people live, and from which non presently can benefit, while the densely
populated slums are allocated miniscule appropriations. With the continuation of these strange
values in a few years we can be assured that we will set a man on the moon and with an adequate
telescope he will be able to see the slum on earth with their intensified congestion, decay, and
turbulence. On what scale of values is this a program of progress?
THE WASTE OF WAR
In still another area the expenditure of resources knows no restraints -- here, our abundance is
fully recognized and enthusiastically squandered. This is the waste of war. While the
antipoverty program is cautiously initiated, zealously supervised, and evaluated for immediate
results, billions are liberally expended for ill-considered warfare. The recently revealed
misestimate of the war budget amounts to $10 billion for a single year. The error alone is more
than five times the amount committed to antipoverty programs.
The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures, we will lose in our decaying cities. The
bombs in Vietnam explode at home -- they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.
Beyond the advantage of diverting huge resources for constructive social goals, ending the war
would give impetus to significant disarmament agreements. With the resources accruing from
termination of the war, arms race, and excessive space races, the elimination of all poverty could
become an immediate national reality. At present the war on poverty is not even a battle, it is
scarcely a skirmish.
Poverty, urban problems, and social progress generally are ignored when the guns of war become a
national obsession. When it is not our security that is at stake, but questionable and vague
commitments to reactionary regimes, values disintegrate into foolish and adolescent slogans.
The chaos of the cities, the persistence of poverty, the degenerating of our national prestige
throughout the world are compelling arguments for achieving peace agreements.