Martin Luther King’s Three Most Important Speeches

Time to Break Silence Speech

 Martin Luther King delivered one of his most notable statements and speeches- Time to Break Silence- on the Vietnam War on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated.  This speech demonstrated the integrity and courage of King to stand and go it alone in criticizing the war and by extension President Lyndon Johnson.  After making this speech, King was ostracize by mainstream civil rights leaders-Whitney Young (National Urban League), Roy Wilkins (NAACP), and the press, both black and white, for linking civil rights with the Vietnam War.  The Washington Post accused him of “grave injury to those who are his natural allies”, writing, “Many who have listened to him with respect will never again accord him the same confidence”.  Life editorialized, he “comes close to betraying the cause for which he has worked so long. He goes beyond his personal right to dissent when he connects progress in civil right here with a proposal that amount to abject surrender in Vietnam”. Jackie Robinson, a close friend, questioned his judgment.

 In his speech, Time to Break Silence, King offers insight and lessons by:

 Offering a biting critique of America by speaking truth to power   “A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”.  He goes on to say, “I know 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.”

Linking divestment of funds for the War on Poverty in favor of increased resources to the Vietnam War  “I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. I know that America would never invest the necessary finds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor, so long as adventure like Vietnam continues to draw men and skills and money like come demonic destructive suction tube.”

Exposing the exploitation of African Americans and the poor by the government’s war machine  “We are taking black young men who have been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they have not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. We have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”

Highlighting the triple evils of America “When machines and computers profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the triple evils of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Advancing a new world order “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for mankind.”

Warning that  the Vietnam War is eroding the Moral fabric of America “Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of American today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over.”
Sources:
The Autobiography of martin Luther King, Jr.: Clayborne Carson

To The Mountaintop: Stewart Burns

A Call To Conscience: Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard

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