Vox Populi

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Audio: Martin Luther King — Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – April 4, 1967 – Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence [Full and unabridged]

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence“, also referred as Riverside Church speech, is an anti–Vietnam War and pro–social justice speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated. The major speech at Riverside Church in New York City, followed several interviews and several other public speeches in which King came out against the Vietnam War and the policies that created it. Some, like civil rights leader Ralph Bunche, the NAACP, and the editorial page writers of The Washington Post and the The New York Times[ called the Riverside Church speech a mistake on King’s part. The New York Times editorial suggested that conflating the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement was an oversimplification that did justice to neither, stating that “linking these hard, complex problems will lead not to solutions but to deeper confusion.” Others, including James Bevel, King’s partner and strategist in the Civil Rights Movement, called it King’s most important speech. It was written by activist and historian Vincent Harding. [Wikipedia]

Here are a few often quoted passages from this speech:

8:09 “A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

11:40 “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 silent.”

31:48 “We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle…and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.”

42:57 “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.”

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