he following text is from a piece currently posted on the front page of The Know Something Project
on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic—but rarely celebrated—speech “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.”
One of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most challenging speeches, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” was given on April 30, 1967 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. This sermon was incredibly powerful for those of us who lived through the Vietnam War…and particularly for those who did not.
The universality of Dr. King’s quest for freedom and justice and the truths he spoke that ring true today deserve international recognition, but first they must be recognized and celebrated here at home, regardless—and because—of how directly they sometimes oppose(d) government policies. Indeed, Dr. King addressed the difficulties citizens often face when they “assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war,” insisting, however, that “the day has passed for superficial patriotism.”
Fighting for what is right, he stated, involves overcoming our government’s “rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats,” the “psychological cataracts that blind us.” Overcoming “all the apathy of conformist thought” one faces and the crippling uncertainty often experienced when one’s government heads down a wrong path makes resistance to what is so very wrong even more difficult. “But we must move on,” Dr. King extolled, despite the fact such a commitment can amount to “a vocation of agony,” …we must move on to “the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history.”
“Yes, we must stand, and we must speak.”
The KSP piece continues on to insist those who serve our country in public office are charged with the duty of standing up for what is right, even when such stances may lead to political unpopularity. Our president, too, is charged with such responsibility. Dr. King considered winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 “a commission” to work harder than he ever had worked “for the brotherhood of Man” as well as “a calling” that required him to reach “beyond national allegiances.” While as president of the United States Barack Obama is required to keep national allegiances his highest priority, I believe a president who also keeps the good of mankind a top priority will subsequently serve his country’s best interests, and serve them well. The pursuit of peace must be our nation’s—and our president’s—guiding principle. Only then can we hope to effectively secure our place in the world order not as a power player with its limited self-interests at heart, but as a united force for what is right.