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美国20世纪最伟大的100篇演讲Martin Luther King - A Time to Break Silence

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American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. -- A Time to Break th... Page 1 of 13


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Beyond Vietnam --A Time to Break Silence


delivered 4 April 1967 at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City


*Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very
delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you
expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by

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turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great
honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi


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Heschel, some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And

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of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last

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eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in

to Chin

that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this

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great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship

begun at

tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this

house

meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the

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organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned
about Vietnam. 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 Iraq Ca
opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has Vigils
come for us in relation to Vietnam. Help St

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The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us & Make
is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men Presen

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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 perplexed as Vietnam
they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge Collect
of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on. Pick Yo

Memor
Military

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have

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found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must

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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

Vietnam

leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to

specia

the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and

accepts

the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us

ong on

trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its

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guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that

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seems so close around us.

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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 source 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

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National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must
play in the 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 fellowed [sic] Americans, *who, with me, bear the
greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on
both continents.

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven
major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision.* 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 buildup 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 eight thousand 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 ghettoes 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 nonviolent action. But they ask --and rightly so --what
about Vietnam? They ask 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

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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 earlier:

O, yes,
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 1954**
[sic]; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace 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'm speaking against the war.
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? 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?

And 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 of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the
people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three

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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 1954* --in 1945 *rather* --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
reconquest 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 recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were
meeting eighty percent 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 recolonization.

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 rooted out all opposition, supported
their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification 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 dictators
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 the
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 the aged. 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 twenty 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

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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 them, 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 noncommunist 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. *Soon the only solid physical
foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of
the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well
wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could
we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the
questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who
have been designated as our enemies.* 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 twenty-five percent 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 nonviolence, 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

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grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

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


Vietnam

words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are

Pick Yo

the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the

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French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and

Military

were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial

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armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at www.auc
tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled
between the thirteenth and seventeenth 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, Vietnam
and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not Operat

Expert

leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Laos &
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Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of

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American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military

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breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. 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.

Jesus

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier

Loves

North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none

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existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America

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has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the www.4Ste
increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North.
He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of
traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony
can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of

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aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than

Darfur

*eight hundred, or rather,* eight thousand miles away from its shores.

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refugee
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few conflict
minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the Sudan
arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about www.AidD
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

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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 of 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.

*I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do
immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from
this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will
create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia
by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has
substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any
meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

Five: *Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in
accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing...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. Meanwhile... 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 protest
possible.

*As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for
them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of

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conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by
more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I
recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable
and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give
up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors.*
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.

Now 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, and if we ignore this sobering reality...and if we ignore this
sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen
concerned" 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.

And so, 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 ten
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 counterrevolutionary 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." 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 investments. 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...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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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 needs restructuring.

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." It will look at our
alliance with the landed gentry of South America 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 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. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military
defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

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 reordering 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.

*This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against
communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the
use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. 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.* These are days which demand wise
restraint and calm reasonableness. *We must not engage in a negative
anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that
our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of
justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of
poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of
communism grows and develops.*

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm 2008-1-8


American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. -- A Time to Break ... Page 11 of 13

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old
systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds 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 antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only
Marxism has a 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 worldwide 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 oft
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-Muslim-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 every one
that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not
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. And 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."

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm 2008-1-8


American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. -- A Time to Break ... Page 12 of 13

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our
neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ
moves on."


Vietnam
Collecti

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. Pick You
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for Memora
peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that Military
borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the Bid Tod

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long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess
power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Revelat

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but

Reveals

beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and

Identity
our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too Pope. H
great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the The Las
forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send Learn B
our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message --of longing, of hope, of Prophecy
solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the www.world
cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must
choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Jesus C

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Loves Y

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Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,

Love Fo

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In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God's new Messiah offering each the bloom or
blight, Military
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And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.

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matter h

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis truth alone is strong

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Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong

Yet that scaffold sways the 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.


Alternative Text Source: http://www.africanamericans.com/MLKjrBeyondVietnam.htm

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm 2008-1-8


American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. -- A Time to Break ... Page 13 of 13

* = text within single asterisks absent from this audio
** King stated "1954." That year was notable for the Civil Rights Movement in the USSC's Brown v. Board of Education
ruling. However, given the statement's discursive thrust, King may have meant to say "1964" --the year he won the
Nobel Peace Prize. Alternatively, as noted by Steve Goldberg, King may have identified 1954's "burden of responsibility"

as the year he became a minister.

External Link: http://www.mlkmemorial.org/

External Link: http://www.thekingcenter.org/

Copyright Status: Text, Audio = Restricted, seek permission. Images = Uncertain.

Copyright inquiries and permission requests may be directed to:

Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Intellectual Properties Management
One Freedom Plaza
449 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Fax: 404-526-8969


Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

.
Copyright 2001-2008.
American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.
All rights reserved.


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