April 4, 2008
Remembering Dr. King, part two
The day before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave another of his powerful speeches, this one known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” It’s often remarked on for its almost eerie prescience: King talks about his life in a way that seems to suggest that he knew he wasn’t long for this world, and he also talks about being stabbed and coming close to death several years earlier. What I wanted to comment on with regard to this speech, though, is how much of it remains relevant today. I realize that, at least to most people who would read a blog like mine, such a statement seems rather obvious. Most, if not all, of what King said remains relevant today. Still, within the larger populace there’s a certain complacency, as if the civil rights movement of the 1960s achieved what it set out to achieve, and no more needs to be done. But King articulates what I feel is the essence of the progressive spirit that keeps people striving toward true equality for all U.S. citizens:
Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.
He also speaks to people of faith in a way that makes so much more sense to me than the rhetoric of today’s conservative Christians whose shouts often drown out the voices of other people of faith:
It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.
King himself may be gone, but his memory and the spirit of his work live on. May that continue to be true.