Dr. King


Martin Luther King
"Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"
April 30, 1967, Riverside Church, New York

The sermon which I am preaching this morning in a sense is not the usual kind of sermon, but it is a sermon and an important subject, nevertheless, because the issue that I will be discussing today is one of the most controversial issues confronting our nation.

… I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war.

… I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was not just something taking place, but it was 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 am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men, for communists and capitalists, for their children and ours, for black and 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 to Jesus Christ? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life? Finally, I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be the 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 today to speak for them. 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 not now of the soldiers of each side, not of the military government of Saigon, but simply of the people who have been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know these people and hear their broken cries.

… 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 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 towns and see thousands of thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like 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. 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 United Buddhist Church. This is a role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolutions impossible but refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. I’m 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 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, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.

… 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 Latin 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 hands 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.

… It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, 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 anti-revolutionaries.

… 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, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and 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 mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. 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 John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. 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.”

… With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!” With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don’t know about you, I ain’t gonna study war no more.

Transcript by Gary Handman, UC Berkeley Media Resources Center, 2006


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Shahryar's picture

I imagine that many of us did. Many of us are old enough and many of us believe the same sorts of things now as we did then.

My march with Dr. King was in NYC in 1967. There must have been 100,000 people involved. We gathered in Central Park and then marched to the UN building where he gave a speech against the US involvement in Vietnam.

I remember at one point during that speech thinking "well, that's kind of obvious".

8 users have voted.

has lived on since the MLK assassination.
Those of us old enough to remember the
reverberations still cling to that inspired hope.
Damn the oppressors.
We shall overcome.

6 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

King’s last speech that he never delivered.

Why America May Go To Hell

The final sermon of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a sermon he was never able to deliver.

Why America May Go to Hell

My dear friends, my dear friend James Lawson, and all of these dedicated and distinguished ministers of the Gospel assembled here tonight, to all of the sanitation workers and their families, and to all of my brothers and sisters, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be in Memphis tonight, to see you here in such large and enthusiastic numbers.

As I came in tonight, I turned around and said to Ralph Abernathy, “They really have a great movement here in Memphis.” You’ve been demonstrating something here that needs to be demonstrated all over the country. You are demonstrating that we can stick together. You are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down.

If you will judge anything here in this struggle, you’re commanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity, and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician. All labor has worth.

You are doing another thing. You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. I need not remind you that this is the plight of our people all over America. The vast majority of Negroes in our country are still perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. My friends, we are living as a people in a literal depression. Now you know when there is vast unemployment and underemployment in the black community, they call it a social problem. When there is vast unemployment and underemployment in the white community they call it a depression. But we find ourselves living in a literal depression all over this country as a people.

Now the problem isn’t only unemployment. Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working everyday? They are making wages so low that they can not begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.

You are here tonight to demand that Memphis do something about the conditions that our brothers face, as they work day in and day out for the well-being of the total community. You are here to demand that Memphis will see the poor.

You know, Jesus reminded us in a magnificent parable one day that a man went to Hell because he didn’t see the poor. And his name was Dives. There was a man by the name of Lazarus who came daily to his gate in need of the basic necessities of life. Dives didn’t do anything about it. He ended up going to Hell.


Thanks for posting this, Linda. Imagine if all 3 of them had lived? How would things have changed for the better?

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

You will never hear his actual beliefs from the MSM as they heap praise on him. Yet that is symbolic of where our country has gone, identity issues - good, moral issues - bad. It's really simple and I bet that every member of the C99 community gets it. We have substituted the worship of American Style Democracy (not democratic by any reasonable test) and an aggressive, dangerous elitism for moral behavior. We're not moral, we are deadly killers, from the top to the bottom. No one thinks - are we destroying societies and killing people? How do you justify dropping bombs on children? Just what exactly goes through your mind as an American?

The most aggressive, deadly society of the 20th century was the Nazis. Adolf Hitler managed to kill some 40 million Europeans, soldiers and civilians. The only thing that stopped him was the USSR, their determination and enormous sacrifice. Yet we not only ignore that, but we crap all over Russia, even voting against their anti-Nazi resolution in the UN, along with our good Nazi pals in the Ukraine. Some have the US causing a death toll at this time of 30 million, direct and indirect deaths due to discretionary wars post WWII. Have you ever seen any American official pay a price for that? If we were moral, then that would have happened. I predict that by 2050 we will have passed Hitler's toll of death and destruction. How dare rioters disturb our hallowed halls of Congress, where military action was authorized and financed?

We can't change until we come to a realization of who we really are. MLK saw this clearly.

9 users have voted.

Capitalism has always been the rule of the people by the oligarchs. You only have two choices, eliminate them or restrict their power.

snoopydawg's picture

@The Wizard

- We're not moral, we are deadly killers, from the top to the bottom.
- No one thinks - are we destroying societies and killing people?
- How do you justify dropping bombs on children?
- Just what exactly goes through your mind as an American?

I do.
I can not.
That we are immoral and deadly killers and not enough people acknowledge it.

I read about France accusing Iran of working on a nuclear weapon because they are enriching......(forgot the name) to 20% after Trump pulled out of the deal. Almost every comment on it was against Iran because they are not trustworthy and they lie and lots other xenophobic comments. No one asked why shouldn’t Iran have nuclear weapons? Israel does as well as other countries that are not our allies. Biden is going to pull a Trump and tell Iran that if they want back into the deal then they will have to give up their ballistic weapons and stay out of Syria. Syria INVITED Iran into the country to help defend it from us. Iran told Biden that they will reenter the deal if it’s the same one as Obama got. I think that’s fair. Israel says that they will attack Iran if Biden signs the new deal. But why do Americans actually think that we are exceptional in our foreign policy? Don’t they ever see the death counts? Guess not if they watch mainstream media. I’ve always been curious about the news.

True dat

Yet that is symbolic of where our country has gone, identity issues - good, moral issues - bad

MLK's statue was built in China for gawd’s sake and it’s subpar for someone as important as he was and iirc the statement on it wasn’t one of his best. I’ll look for it.

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

snoopydawg's picture

@The Wizard

Embrace MLK, Reject Barack Obama. Why Leftists Need to Challenge the Scourge of Black Neoliberalism

Today is MLK day. Which is now time for the Black Congressional Caucus, Democratic Party, and many in our political establishment will pretend that MLK represents everything they stand for. This holiday serves as a day for our media class to continue to whitewash MLK and paint their leaders in his image. As someone who has been truly moved by the actions and life MLK it is now time we call out black boomers for abandoning our revolutionary roots.

Neoliberalism Crushed the Black Community

When you see our black leaders support the Crime Bill en masse and enthusiastically support the author of the crime bill in Joe Biden, I cannot help but to perceive them as complicit in leading black people off a cliff. The Crime Bill was a horrific piece of legislation that propped up our racist prison industrial complex and created our current carceral state that jails 25% of the world’s prison population. This is not an accident; Democrats love arresting black people for prison slave labor. Kamala Harris was a big supporter of this and civil asset forfeiture. Civil Asset Forfeiture is another institution designed to siphon wealth from disenfranchised communities.

When leftists challenge Joe Biden on his racist record, one of the first things that is brought up is the Crime Bill, but the bankruptcy bill was also devastating to black lives. The bankruptcy bill was one of the most anti working-class pieces of legislation ever. Joe Biden voted against amendments that would have eased the burdens of those suffering from medical debt and student loan debt. This highlights the key difference between black liberals and black leftists because black leftists discuss the black financial consequences of neoliberal capitalism. Black people are the demographic that suffers the most under medical debt. Black people pay the most interest on student loans. Joe Biden fought his entire career to make it more difficult to go after Wall Street fraudsters who charge black Americans higher interest rates and deny them loans.

Combining the negative effects of both the Crime Bill and Bankruptcy Bill, I see no reason why it is inaccurate to state that no one has done more harm to the black community than any public figure in the modern era than Joe Biden. I am bringing this up because the Black Congressional Caucus supported and dragged this guy across the finish line during this Democratic Primary to the horror of young black voters who supported Bernie Sanders. Our black leaders prop up our oppressors and whitewash their horrible deeds. This is why we need black leftists to challenge our leadership who uses their influence to back corporatists. ....

The Failure of Black Leadership

I laid out many of the ways this system has failed African Americans. This highlights my frustration with black boomers who shifted to the right over the last few decades. They left the civil rights movement unfinished. Now ask yourself, where exactly has the Black Congressional Caucus been while our communities were ravaged by neoliberal capitalism? Well, W.E.B. Dubois said it best:

“A class structure began to arise within the Negro group which produced haves and have-nots and tended to encourage more successful Negroes to join the forces of monopoly and exploitation and help victimize their own classes and any other lower classes that were possible. To remedy the situation thinking Negroes still regarded their first step toward emancipation as being political power”

-W.E.B. Dubois

The black caucus is pretty worthless to black communities. Look at the poor black communities and see who their congress members are. I remember Trump calling Baltimore a 3rd world country and the black person over that district tried to defend himself. Trump showed footage of the neighborhood. But then this goes for every member of congress. How many forgotten people are they supposed to be looking out for? We’re talking people so poor they aren’t even counted as citizens. Poor people in the hill areas of the country where they live off grid? Hillbillies, but not really. You know who I’m talking about?

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Which AIPAC/MIC/pharma/bank bought politician are you going to vote for? Don’t be surprised when nothing changes.

Roy Blakeley's picture

@The Wizard and to point out that attitudes were a lot different in 1943:

4 users have voted.

@Roy Blakeley Somebody got it that the Russians were beating the crap out of Hitler!

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981