MLK’S Antiwar Message Echoes 40 Years Later: Speaking Truth to Power

Martin Luther King Jr. Apr 5, 2007

BEYOND VIETNAM … AND IRAQ: Poet Kahlil Almustafa speaks at the April 1 ceremony at New York’s Riverside Church commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Beyond Vietnam,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic antiwar speech. Delivered at the height of the Vietnam War, King’s April 4, 1967 speech delivered at Riverside offered a radical, far-reaching critique of U.S. society and its penchant for military aggression. He was assassinated exactly one year later in Memphis, Tenn. PHOTO: LANI BOUWER

mlkSPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: “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… 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 move on.…

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. …

“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 … marching … and attending rallies without end … “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. 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.”

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