Dr. King, April 4, 1967:

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper
malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this
sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy-
and laymen-concerned committees for the next
generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and
Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and
Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique
and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a
dozen other names and attending rallies without end
unless there is a significant and profound change in
American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond
Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living
God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it
seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of
a world revolution. During the past ten years we have
seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has
justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in
Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our
investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action
of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American
helicopters are being used against guerrillas in
Colombia and why American napalm and green beret
forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late
John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago
he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution
impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our
nation has taken - the role of those who make peaceful
revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges
and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of
overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the
world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical
revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from
a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society.
When machines and computers, profit motives and
property rights are considered more important than
people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and
militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question
the fairness and justice of many of our past and present
policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good
Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial
act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho
road must be transformed so that men and women will
not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their
journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than
flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and
superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which
produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the
glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous
indignation, it will look across the seas and see
individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of
money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the
profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the
countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our
alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say:
"This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it
has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from
them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world
order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is
not just." 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 veins of
people 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.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the
world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values.
There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us
from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace
will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is
nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo
with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a
brotherhood.


The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are
revolting against old systems of exploitation and
oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new
systems of justice and equality are being born. The
shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as
never before. "The people who sat in darkness have
seen a great light."

We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a
sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid
fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to
injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of
the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now
become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven
many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit.
Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure
to make democracy real and follow through on the
revolutions we initiated.

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the
revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile
world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and
militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall
boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and
thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the
crooked shall be made straight and the rough places
plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis
that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than
sectional. 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 world-wide 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 all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted
concept - so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the
world as a weak and cowardly force - has now become
an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I
speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and
weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of
the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying
principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the
door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-
Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is
beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that
loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not
knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another
God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the
day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or
bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history
are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate.
History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and
individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
As Arnold Toynbee says:

"Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving
choice of life and good against the damning choice of
death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory
must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We
are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this
unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a
thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of
time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and
dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of
men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry
out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but
time is deaf to every plea and rushes on.

Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of
numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words:
"Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully
records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger
writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice
today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find
new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice
throughout the developing world - a world that borders
on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged
down the long dark and shameful corridors of time
reserved for those who possess power without
compassion, might without morality, and strength without
sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the
long and bitter - but beautiful - struggle for a new
world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our
brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the
odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too
hard? Will our message be that the forces of American
life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send
our deepest regrets?

Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of
solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their
cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and
though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in
this crucial moment of human history.