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美国20世纪最伟大的100篇演讲Martin Luther King - Ive Been to the Mountai

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AmericanRhetoric.com


Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

delivered
3 April 1968
in Memphis,
Tennessee


AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED:
Text
version below
transcribed
directly
from
audio

Thank you
very kindly, my friends.
As
I
listened
to Ralph
Abernathy and his eloquent and
generous introduction and then
thought about
myself, I wondered who he was talking about.
It's always good to
have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you.
And Ralph
Abernathy is the best friend that I
have in
the world. I'm delighted to see each of
you
here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on
anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis. something is happening in our world. And you
know, if I
were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and
panoramic view of the whole of human
history up to
now, and the Almighty said to
me,
"Martin Luther King, which age would you
like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by
Egypt and I would watch
God's children
in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of
Egypt
through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on
toward the promised
land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato,
Aristotle,
Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would
watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal
issues of reality.
But I wouldn't stop there.

I would go on, even
to
the great
heyday of the Roman
Empire. And I would see developments
around there, through
various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
1



AmericanRhetoric.com


I would even come up to
the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that
the
Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But
I wouldn't stop there.

I would even go by the way that
the man
for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would
watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninetyfive
theses on the door at
the church of
Wittenberg. But
I wouldn't stop there.

I would come on up even to
1863, and watch a
vacillating President by the name of Abraham
Lincoln finally come to the conclusion
that
he had to sign
the Emancipation Proclamation. But
I
wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to
the early thirties, and
see a man grappling with
the problems of the
bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent
cry that we have nothing to fear but
"fear itself." But I wouldn't stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn
to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow
me to
live just a few
years in
the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy."


Now that's a strange statement to
make, because the world is all messed up. The nation
is
sick. Trouble is in the land. confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I
know,
somehow, that only when it is dark enough
can
you see the stars.
And I see God working in
this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.


Something is happening in our world.
The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they
are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg,
South Africa. Nairobi, Kenya. Accra,
Ghana. New York City. Atlanta, Georgia. Jackson, Mississippi. or Memphis, Tennessee the
cry
is always the same: "We want to be free."

And another reason
that
I'm happy to
live in this period is that we have been
forced to a point
where we are going to have to grapple with
the problems that
men have been trying to
grapple with
through
history, but
the demands didn't force them to do
it. Survival demands
that we grapple with
them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But
now, no
longer can
they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between
violence and
nonviolence in this world. it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That
is where we are today.

And also
in
the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring
the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and
neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I'm just
happy that God has allowed me to live in
this period to
see what is unfolding.
And I'm happy that
He's allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember I
can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph
has said,
so often, scratching where they didn't itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that
day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in
God's world.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
2



AmericanRhetoric.com


And that's all
this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged
in any negative protest and in any
negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are
determined to be people. We are saying We
are saying that we are God's children. And that
we are God's children, we don't
have to
live like we are forced to
live.


Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got
to
stay together. We've got
to stay together and maintain
unity. You
know, whenever Pharaoh
wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing
it. What was that? He kept
the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves
get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery.
When the slaves get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now
let us
maintain unity.

Secondly, let
us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal
of Memphis to be fair and honest
in its dealings with
its public servants, who happen to be
sanitation workers. Now, we've got
to keep attention on
that. That's always the problem with
a little violence. You know what
happened the other day, and the press dealt only with
the
windowbreaking.
I read the articles. They very
seldom got around to mentioning the fact
that
one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being
fair to
them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to
that.

Now we're going to
march again, and we've got
to march again, in order to
put the issue
where it
is supposed to
be and
force everybody to
see that there are thirteen
hundred of
God's children
here suffering,
sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights
wondering how
this thing is going to
come out.
That's the issue. And we've got
to say to
the
nation: We know how
it's coming out. For when
people get
caught up with that which
is right
and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

We aren't going to
let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent
movement
in
disarming police forces. they don't know what
to do. I've seen them so often. I remember in
Birmingham,
Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of
the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day. by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull
Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come. but we just went
before
the dogs singing, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn
me around."

Bull Connor next would say, "Turn
the fire hoses on." And as I said to you the other night, Bull
Connor didn't
know
history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to
the
transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact
that there was a certain
kind of fire
that
no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses. we had known water. If we
were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed.
If we were Methodist, and
some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That
couldn't stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at
them. and we'd go on before the
water hoses and we would look at
it, and we'd just go on singing "Over my head
I
see
freedom in the air." And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we
were stacked in
there like sardines in a can.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
3



AmericanRhetoric.com


And they would throw
us in, and old Bull would say, "Take 'em off," and they did. and we
would just go in the paddy wagon singing, "We
Shall Overcome."
And every now and then
we'd get
in jail, and we'd see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our
prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which
Bull Connor couldn't adjust
to. and so we ended up transforming Bull
into a steer, and we won
our struggle in
Birmingham.
Now we've got
to go on in Memphis just
like that. I call
upon you to
be with
us when we go
out Monday.

Now about
injunctions:
We have an injunction and we're going into court tomorrow morning
to fight
this illegal, unconstitutional
injunction. All we say to America is, "Be true to what
you
said on paper."
If I
lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could
understand some of these illegal
injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain
basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to
that over
there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of
speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read
that
the greatness of
America is the right
to protest for right. And so just as I
say, we aren't going to
let dogs or
water hoses turn
us around, we aren't going to
let any injunction turn
us around.
We are
going on.

We need all of you. And you know what's beautiful to me is to
see all of these ministers of the
Gospel. It's a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and
aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow
the preacher must have a kind of
fire shut
up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher
must be an Amos, and saith, "When
God speaks who can but prophesy?" Again with
Amos,
"Let justice roll down
like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Somehow the
preacher must
say with
Jesus, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon
me, because he hath anointed
me," and he's anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor."


And I want to
commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James
Lawson, one who
has been in this struggle for many
years. he's been
to jail
for struggling.
he's been kicked out of Vanderbilt
University for this struggle, but
he's still going on, fighting
for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles. I could just go right on down
the list, but time will not permit. But
I want to
thank all of them. And I want you to
thank
them, because so often, preachers aren't concerned about anything but
themselves. And I'm
always happy to
see a relevant ministry.

It's all right
to
talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But
ultimately people want
some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down
here! It's all right
to
talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but
God has commanded
us to be concerned
about
the slums down
here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day.
It's all
right
to
talk about
the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about
the new
New York, the new Atlanta,
the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis,
Tennessee. This is what we have to do.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
4



AmericanRhetoric.com


Now the other thing we'll
have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with
the
power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when
you
compare us with white society in America.
We are poor. Never stop and forget
that
collectively
that
means all of us together collectively
we are richer than all
the nations in
the world,
with
the exception of nine. Did you ever think about
that? After you
leave the United States,
Soviet Russia,
Great
Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the
American Negro collectively is richer than
most
nations of the world. We have an annual
income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the
United States, and more than
the national budget of Canada. Did you
know
that? That's power
right
there, if we know
how to pool it.

We don't have to argue with anybody.
We don't
have to curse and go around acting bad with
our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We
just need to go around to
these stores, and to
these massive industries in our country, and
say, "God sent us by here, to say to
you
that you're not
treating his children right. And we've
come by here to ask you
to make the first
item on your agenda
fair treatment, where God's
children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do
have an agenda that
we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."


And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go
out and tell your neighbors not
to
buy CocaCola
in Memphis. Go by and tell them
not
to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not
to buy
what
is the other bread? Wonder
Bread.
And what is the other bread
company, Jesse?
Tell
them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson
has said,
up to
now, only the garbage
men have been feeling pain. now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing
these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies. and we are choosing
them because they can begin
the process of saying they are going to
support
the needs and
the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can
move on
town downtown
and
tell Mayor Loeb to do what
is right.

But
not only that, we've got
to strengthen black institutions. I
call
upon you to take your
money out of the banks downtown and deposit
your money in TriState
Bank. We want a
"bankin"
movement
in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you
something that we don't do ourselves at
SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will
tell you that we
have an account
here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference.
We are telling you
to follow what we are doing. Put
your money there.
You
have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your
insurance there.
We want to
have an "insurancein."


Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin
the process of building a
greater economic base. And at
the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I
ask you
to follow through here.

Now, let
me say as I move to my conclusion
that we've got
to give ourselves to
this struggle
until
the end. Nothing would be more tragic than
to stop at this point in Memphis. We've got
to see it through. And when we have our march, you
need to
be there. If it means leaving
work, if it means leaving school be
there.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
5



AmericanRhetoric.com


Be concerned about your brother. You may not
be on
strike. But either we go
up together, or
we go down
together.

Let
us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man
came to Jesus, and he
wanted to
raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to
trick
Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw
him off base....

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate.
But
Jesus immediately pulled that question from midair,
and placed it on a dangerous curve
between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain
man, who
fell among thieves.
You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to
help
him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not
to
be compassionate by proxy. But
he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the
man
in
need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because
he had
the capacity to project
the "I" into
the "thou," and to be concerned about
his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great
deal
to try to determine why the priest and
the Levite didn't stop. At
times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an
ecclesiastical gathering, and they had
to get on
down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late
for their meeting.
At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law
that "One
who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to
touch a human body twentyfour
hours
before the ceremony." And every now and then
we begin
to wonder whether maybe they were
not going down
to Jerusalem or
down
to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road
Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt
that
it was better to deal with
the problem from the causal
root, rather than
to get bogged down
with an individual effect.

But I'm going to
tell
you what my imagination
tells me. It's possible that
those men were
afraid. You
see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were
first
in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down
to Jericho. And as soon as
we got on that road,
I said to my wife, "I can
see why Jesus used this as the setting for his
parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing.
You
start out
in Jerusalem, which is about
1200 miles or
rather 1200
feet above sea level. And by the
time you get down
to Jericho, fifteen or twenty
minutes later, you're about
2200
feet below
sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days
of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody
Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the
ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt
that
the
man on
the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt,
in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so
the first
question
that
the priest asked the
first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help
this man, what will
happen
to me?" But then
the Good Samaritan came by.
And he reversed
the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will
happen
to
him?"

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to
help the sanitation workers, what will
happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to
help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the
hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question
is not, "If I
stop to
help this man in need, what
will
happen to
me?" The question
is, "If I do
not
stop to
help the sanitation workers, what will
happen to
them?" That's the question.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
6



AmericanRhetoric.com


Let
us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let
us stand with a greater determination. And
let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought
to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want
to thank God,
once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had
written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman
came up.
The
only question I
heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?" And I was looking down
writing, and I said, "Yes."
And the next minute I felt
something beating on my chest. Before I
knew
it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to
Harlem Hospital. It was
a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had
gone through, and the Xrays
revealed that
the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured,
your drowned in your own blood that's
the end of you.

It
came out
in the New York Times
the next morning,
that
if I
had
merely sneezed, I would
have died. Well, about
four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest
had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to
move around in the wheel chair in the
hospital. They allowed me to
read
some of the mail
that came in, and from all over the states
and the world,
kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will
never forget. I
had
received one from the President and the VicePresident.
I've forgotten what those telegrams
said.
I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what
that
letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was
a student at the White Plains High
School. And I looked at
that
letter, and I'll never forget
it.
It
said simply,


Dear Dr. King,


I am a ninthgrade
student at
the White Plains High
School."


And she said,


While it should not
matter, I would like to
mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of
your misfortune, and of your suffering.
And I read that if you
had sneezed, you would have
died.
And I'm simply writing you
to say that
I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze.


And I want to
say tonight
I
want
to say tonight that I too am happy that
I didn't sneeze.
Because if I
had
sneezed, I wouldn't have been
around here in 1960, when students all over
the South
started sittingin
at
lunch
counters. And I knew
that as they were sitting in, they
were really standing up for the best
in the American dream, and taking the whole nation
back
to
those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I
had sneezed, I wouldn't
have been around here in
1961, when we decided to
take a ride
for freedom and ended segregation
in
interstate
travel.


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
7



AmericanRhetoric.com


If I
had sneezed, I wouldn't
have been around here in
1962, when Negroes in Albany,
Georgia, decided
to straighten
their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their
backs
up,
they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.

If I
had sneezed If
I had sneezed I wouldn't have been
here in 1963, when
the black people
of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought
into being the
Civil Rights Bill.

If I
had sneezed, I
wouldn't
have had a chance later that year,
in August, to try to tell
America about a dream that I
had
had.

If I
had sneezed, I wouldn't
have been down
in
Selma, Alabama, to
see the great Movement
there.

If I
had sneezed, I wouldn't
have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those
brothers and sisters who are suffering.


I'm so
happy that I didn't sneeze.


And they were telling me .
Now, it doesn't
matter, now. It really doesn't matter what
happens now. I left
Atlanta this morning, and as we got
started on the plane, there were six
of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have
Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to
be sure that
nothing would be wrong with on
the plane, we had to
check out everything
carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all
night."


And then I got
into Memphis. And some began
to say the threats, or talk about
the threats
that were out. What would happen to
me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've
got some difficult days ahead. But
it really
doesn't matter with
me now, because I've been
to the mountaintop.


And I don't mind.


Like anybody, I would like to
live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned
about
that now. I just want to do
God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to
the mountain.
And I've looked over.
And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get
there with you. But I
want
you to
know
tonight, that we, as a people, will get
to
the promised land!


And so I'm happy,
tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine
eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!


Transcription by
Michael
E. Eidenmuller. Copyright Status: Restricted, seek permission.
Page
8


 

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