17
Jan

beyond vietnam speech

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" was a powerful and angry speech that raged against the war. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy [applause], realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must move past indecision to action. Exactly one year before his assassination, on April 4, 1967, Rev. It was written by activist and historian Vincent Harding. 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. After more than 40 years, it still sounds revolutionary (Hansen, p. 175-177). 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. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest. Could we blame them for such thoughts? I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. Addressing a crowd of 3,000 at Riverside Church in New York City, King condemned the war as anti-democratic, impractical, and unjust. Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation. So, too, with Hanoi. 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. The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. MLKEC, INP, Martin Luther King, Jr. Estate Collection, In Private Hands, NYC-7A & 7B, Cypress Hall D, 466 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305-4146 Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life? 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? 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. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be considered. This was, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech against the Vietnam War on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York. King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected "traditional capitalism", he also rejected communism because of its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion, its "ethical relativism", and its "political totalitarianism. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech was delivered at the Riverside Church in New York exactly one year before his assassination. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: Each day the war goes on the hatred increased in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence Rev. Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? 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. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. They remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. "[25] King quoted a United States official who said that from Vietnam to Latin America, the country was "on the wrong side of a world revolution. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, 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. Shall we say the odds are too great? 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. [13] A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality [applause], and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Others, including James Bevel, King's partner and strategist in the Civil Rights Movement, called it King's most important speech. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. 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. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, D.C. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, San Jose. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our inner being may be sensitive to its guidance. 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 the successful resolution of the problem. A true revolution of values will lay hand 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. 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. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. 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. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it’s always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. But the man who spoke at Riverside Church that day was not universally admired. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. 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. 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. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances. The recent statements 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. 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. 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. [applause] War is not the answer. Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc. Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, San Francisco. For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence", also referred as the Riverside Church speech,[1] is an anti–Vietnam War and pro–social justice speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. 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 [Audience:] (Yes); the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict: Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam. 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. "[8] He connected the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change: A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. In Hanoi are the men who led this 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. Procrastination is still the thief of time. A few months after his speech, I was fortunate to participate in the anti-Vietnam war march in October 1967 in Washington, DC, known as the “March Against the Pentagon”. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. It was his first major public antiwar speech and a powerful warning that a rise in racial hatred, militarism and … [25], King's stance on Vietnam encouraged Allard K. Lowenstein, William Sloane Coffin and Norman Thomas, with the support of anti-war Democrats, to attempt to persuade King to run against President Johnson in the 1968 United States presidential election. 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