Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech — given April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York a year to the day before he was gunned down — is less famous than his “I Have a Dream” speech. But when you hear it, and you can listen to excerpts here, you realize again not just how much America lost when he was assassinated, but how much it needs him now.
Substitute the word “Iraq” for “Vietnam”:
I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
That speech and Taylor Branch’s op-ed today about non-violence, “Globalizing King’s Legacy,” ought to be required reading for the pipsqueak leaders of our time, when “spitballs pass for debate,” as Taylor writes, and King’s “ideas are not so much rebutted as cordoned off or begrudged.”