Source: King, Martin Luther Jr. Beyond Vietnam and Casualties of the War in Vietnam. New York: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, 1986.
April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, NYC
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because
my conscience leaves me no other choice.
I join 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 perplexing 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
And 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
movements 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 the 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 sources 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 misunderstanding, 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
must play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both
may have justifiable reasons 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.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National
Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. 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 build-up in Vietnam and I watched this
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
8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had
not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And 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. And so we watch them
in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village but we realize
that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. 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 ghettos 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 non-violent 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 the 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 until 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
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 Peace Prize 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 the good news was meant for all men, for communist and
capitalist, for the 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 explain 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
the 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 in compassion my mind goes constantly to the
people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side,
not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not 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 re-conquest 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 re-colonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war
we were meeting 80% of the French war costs. Even before the French were
defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their 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
After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land
reform would come again through the Geneva agreement. 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 re-unification
with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by
United States influence and then by increasing numbers of United States
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 on or be
destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women and children and
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 20 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 out our latest weapons on the, 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.
Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. What of
the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we
call VC or Communists? What must they think of the United States of
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 25% 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 not have a 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 upon the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence 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
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 13th and
17th parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched
us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could 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
troops in large numbers and even supplies until American forces had
moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about
the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how we 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 the increasing international rumors of American plans for
an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing, shelling, and mining
we are doing a part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only
his sense of humor and 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 8,000 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 in Vietnam and to understand
the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned
about our own 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 a 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 one
who loves America, to the leaders of our 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, and I quote, "Each day the
war goes on, the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and
in the hearts of those 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 militarism." Unquote.
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. 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 horrible, 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 and set a date that we will remove all foreign troops
from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement. [Applause]
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 must provide the medical aid that
is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary. [Applause]
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 and our lives if our
nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared
to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of
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 that 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. [Applause] And if we ignore this sobering
reality we will find ourselves organizing Clergy and Laymen Concerned
with 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. [Applause] 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 10 years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now
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 Cambodia,
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." [Applause]
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 to shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a
'person-oriented' society. When machines and computer, profit motives
and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant
triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness
and justice of many of our past and present policies. On 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 comes to see
that an edifice which produces beggars need re-structuring. [Applause]
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.' 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 the veins
of peoples 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. [Applause]
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 re-ordering 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.
These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness.
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 judgment
against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the
revolutions that 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 mountain 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 mankind. This oft
misunderstood, this often 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 not
speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. 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 everything that loveth is
born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth no knoweth no 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.' Unquote.
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, 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 flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for
time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes
on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues 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. Omar Kayam is
right, 'The moving finger writes, and having written moves on...' We still
have a choice today, non-violent 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
Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter,
but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling 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.
That noble bard of yesterday James Russel Loyle eloquently stated, 'Once
to every man and nation comes a moment to decide. In the strife of truth
and falsehood, for the good or evil side, some great cause, God's new
messiah offers each the gloom or light 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 a future. And behind
the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow keeping watch above his
own.' And if we will only make the right choice we will be able to
transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.
If we will make the right choice we will be able to transform the
jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
If we will but make the right choice we will be able to speed up the day
all over America and all over the world when justice will roll down like
waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. [Applause]