Sunday, January 18, 2009

Remembering MLK

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. What a monumental occasion that we celebrate the civil rights icon, and then the next day, watch on television as the first African-American is inaugurated into the office of the presidency. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a personal hero of mine, as I know he is for many others, because he was always willing to challenge the status quo in society with nonviolence, whether he was fighting for equal rights and treatment of all people or against the injustices of the Vietnam War. Some of my favorite MLK quotes actually come from later in his activist career when he became a vehement opponent of Vietnam. He gave the speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” on April 4, 1967, exactly one year to the date before he was assassinated. What he said in the speech is eerily similar to what could be said about our society today. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”

“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.”

“The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.”

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