Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dr. King and the Vietnam War


It was this week 50 years ago that the country watched the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the March on Washington. It was August 28th, 1963. Dr. King rallied the huge crowd of blacks and whites, young and old, peaceniks and patriots from all over the country with his seminal "I Have a Dream" speech. It seemed a time of hope and unity even in the shadow of race riots and the war in Vietnam.

But there was another speech that Dr. King made on April 4, 1967 that would shake the very rafters of the Washington establishment and portend a difficult year ahead for the civil rights and anti-war movements and American soldiers in Vietnam. The speech has been hailed as one of much courage and risk for Dr. King. He was chided, condemned and derided by much of the establishment. He would die at the hands of an assassin on the exact date, one year later- April 4, 1968 only a few short months after the horrible Tet Offensive in  South Vietnam that would see 70,000 combined North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong guerillas attack more than 100 cities in South Vietnam beginning a time of rethinking in the US towards the War that was costing tens of thousands of American lives and untold Vietnamese deaths.

It was the Spring before Tet that Dr. King would make his "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech. I have read numerous transcripts of this speech and found them to be poorly transcribed and terribly lacking. There is simply no way to appreciate this speech except to hear it in Dr. King's words as it was recorded live in Manhattan at the Riverside Church.
Herein we include a transcript from Stanford University archives and the audio of Dr. King's speech from YouTube.

Please take the time to listen to Martin speak. He knew. He was aware of the risk he was taking this day in New York City. He paid with his life. Many will say he was not killed because he was a black man. Many will say he was not killed because he finally spoke out against the War. But, in the end, does it really matter? The country lost a leader, a voice of conscience that we have not heard from any leader since.

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