Photograph by Dick DeMarsico from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

The Handwriting on the Wall

We have come here
because we share a common concern
for the moral health of our nation.
We have come because our eyes
have seen through the superficial
glory and glitter of our society
and observed the coming of judgment.
Like the prophet of old, we have read the handwriting on the wall.
We have seen our nation weighed in the balance of history
and found wanting….

Cowardice asks the question, is it safe;
expediency asks the question, is it politic;
vanity asks the question, is it popular;
but conscience asks the question, is it right?

And on some positions, it is necessary
for the moral individual to take a stand
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but he must do it because it is right.

Source: Martin Luther King Jr., “The Three Evils of Society,” speech at the National Conference on New Politics in Chicago, August 31, 1967.

Photograph Tony Spina / The Detroit Free Press

Hard Work, Not Complacency

It may well be that we will have to repent
in this generation
not merely for the vitriolic words
and the violent actions of the bad people,
but for the appalling silence
and indifference of the good people
who sit around and say wait on time….

Social progress never rolls in
on the wheels of inevitability.
It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work
of dedicated individuals.
And without this hard work
time itself becomes an ally
of the primitive forces of social stagnation.

And so we must help time. We must realize
that the time is always right
to do right.

Source: Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America,” speech at Stanford University, April 14, 1967.

Photograph by Yoichi Okamoto, Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Why I Oppose War

I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why
I am 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?…

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….

We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless,
for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy,
for no document from human hands
can make these humans any less our brothers.

Source: Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” speech at Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967.

Photograph by Matt Herron / AP Images

Now Is the Time

We are now faced with the fact 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….
There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records
our vigilance or our neglect….

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves
to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world.
This is the calling of the sons of God,
and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. 

Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them
the struggle is too hard?
Will our message be that the forces of American life
militate against their arrival as full men,
and we send our deepest regrets?
Or will there be another message,
of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings,
of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost?

Source: Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” speech at Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967.