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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
asked—and rightly so—what about Vietnam?
They asked 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
Martin Luther King Jr.,
at Riverside Church, New York City,
the Falsity of Material Wealth
first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear
is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes
needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national
life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and
support of the people themselves, which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again
give that support to leadership in these critical days.
such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material
things. Values have shrunken to
fantastic levels. Taxes have
risen. Our ability to pay has
fallen. Government of all kinds
is faced by serious curtailment of income. The means of exchange are frozen in
the currents of trade. The
withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side. Farmers find no markets for their
produce. The savings of many
years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of
existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the
dark realities of the moment…
lies not in the mere possession of money. It lies in the joy of achievement, in
the thrill of creative effort.
The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in
the mad chase of evanescent profits.
These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that
our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and
to our fellow men.
of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand
with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political
position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal
profit. And there must be an end
to conduct in banking and in business, which too often has given to a sacred
trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence
languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of
obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot
is growth, life is progress, and progress depends on new ideas. Without the advent of new ideas, we
should still be riding in stagecoaches and reading by the light of tallow
ideals are the glory of man alone.
No other creature can have them.
Only man can get a vision and an inspiration that will lift him above
the level of himself and send him forth against all opposition or any
discouragement to do and to dare and to accomplish wonderful and great things
for the world and for humanity.
no other of God’s creatures is given this power but man alone, and the man
that has set before him no great and uplifting ideal and never received a
vision of the glory of service has never known the joy of real
achievement. There can be no
conquest to the man who dwells in the narrow and small environment of a
groveling life, and there can be no vision to the man the horizon of whose
vision is limited by the bounds of self.
the great things of the world, the great accomplishments of the world, have
been achieved by men who had high ideals and who have received great
visions. The path is not easy,
the climbing is rugged and hard, but the glory of the vision at the end is
American polar explorer and aide to
Robert Peary, c. 1910
on my gravestone: "Infidel, Traitor." --infidel to every church that
compromises with wrong; traitor to every government that oppresses the
Updated August 16,
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