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“A Revolution of Values”

Riverside Church (NYC)

Riverside Church (NYC)

Every year, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I read what is perhaps King’s most important and timeless speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence” (delivered on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church, NYC, exactly one year to the day before his assassination in Memphis).

Many think that this speech – as part of King’s expanding mission from civil rights to human rights, based on Economic and Social Justice, and culminating in the Poor People’s Campaign,  which integrated critiques and social protest movements against poverty, racism, and war – is what led to his assassination.

Today’s media and timid politicians have whitewashed King’s legacy , limiting focus to politically safe and feel good excerpts from his  “I Have a Dream” speech. But King was far more progressive. For example, you won’t hear these lines from “Beyond Vietnam” on the TeeVee news (my favorite):

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 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, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

… A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

The irony of the 2009 Peace Prize winner in the White House expanding unjust wars of aggression in at least three countries is not lost on history.

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