Monday, January 20, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King's Speech at Southern Methodist University

Today our country commemorates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and across our country people will celebrate the life and legacy of this stalwart and valiant career of this soldier of non-violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the SMU's McFarlin Auditorium, March 1966. 
The life of King will be remembered in efforts to reflect our common brother and sisterhood through acts of service to the less fortunate. I hope that in each of these noble acts, we remember that Dr. King's life was dedicated to justice and not just sentimental service. I hope we reflect on his words and his life and examine whether the efforts of our lives seek to infuse our society with a persistent effort for justice.

I came across this recording of a speech by Dr. King, given at Southern Methodist University in March of 1966. It is, as were many of his speeches of this time, a rough compilation of all of his speeches given over a period of time. This was because at this time he was giving an apologetic of the Civil Rights Movement, seeking to give the reasonable response to the aims and goals of his life and career and that of all of those men and women who gave their very lives to see that America's commitment to freedom was whole and total. King's thinking at this time, had not matured to a point where he began to look at integration as a matter of economics, poverty and the Viet Nam War's contribution to the nation's ills as it strove toward equality.

In his speech King explains the blessings and balance he hoped to achieve as he worked to make certain that the United States made good on that promise...

 I close with a personal faith and that is the glowing faith in the future that I believe somehow we will solve this problem however difficult, however much opposition we have. Our goal is freedom and somehow our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. And I believe we are going to get to that goal of freedom because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scared though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.

Before the Pilgrim Father’s landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Thomas Jefferson etched across the pages of history the words I just quoted, we were here. Before the beautiful words of The Star-Spangled Banner were written, we were here. And for more than two centuries our forbearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of most humiliating and oppressive conditions.

And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to grow and develop. And I say to you this afternoon that if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail.

We are going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so I can sing anew, “We shall overcome” and we shall overcome because Carlyle is right, “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.”

Yet that scaffold sways the future and behind them unknown stands God within the shadows keeping watch above his own. With His faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain the slab of stone of hope. With His faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful, sensitive brotherhood. With His faith, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children all over this nation, black men and white men, Protestants and Catholics, Jews and gentiles, 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 are free at last.”

Below is the entire message King presented at SMU...

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