Beyond Vietnam; Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, part one
National Educational radio presents a special program featuring an address by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Dr. King's talk in titled Beyond Vietnam was given at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4th 1967. Under the auspices of the clergy and laymen concerned about Vietnam. This recording was provided by station WRVO our New York. Here now is Dr. King Live. Ladies and gentlemen. I need not pause to say how delighted I am to be here tonight. And how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight. By turning out in such large numbers.
I also want to say that I consider it a great honor. To share this program with Dr. Bennett and Dr. Carmon and rabbi has shown. Some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it's always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period. And it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great program. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.
I join you in this meeting because Simon deepest agreement with the aims and work of the Aga ization which has brought us together and laymen concerned about Vietnam. And the recent statement of your executive committee sent amends of my own heart. And I found myself and for a cause when I read its opening line. A time comes when silence is betrayal and that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam. The truth of these words is beyond doubt. But the mission to which they call us. Is a most
difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of an a truth man do not easily assume the task of opposing the Government's policy. Is specially in time of war. Nard does the human spirit move without great difficulty. Against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand. Same as complex and as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night
have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision. But we must speak and we must rejoice as well. For sure this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesies of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of crime dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is let us trace its movements and pray that in a being may be sensitive to
its guidance for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us. Over the past two years as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences. And to speak from the burning of my heart as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam. Many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of that concern Square has often a large and loud. Why are you speaking about the war Dr. King. Are you joining the voices of dissent. Peace and civil rights don't mix. They say aren't you hurting the cause of your people. They ask and where. When I hear them go out and understand the source of their concern.
I'm never the less great less saddened for such questions and mean that the Enquirer's have not really known me. My commitment or my calling indeed the question suggests that they do not know the world in which they live. And the light of such tragic misunderstanding. I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly and I trust concisely why I believe that the path from backstab to new Baptist church to church in Montgomery Alabama where I began my pastorate. Leads clear lead to this sanctuary tonight. I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
Is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation. And the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam of the National Liberal Liberation Front power a virtue not to overlook the role they must play and the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States Life and History give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trust give and take on both sides. Tonight however I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front but rather to my fellow that America
sends I'm a preacher by calling. I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field to my moral vision. That is at the outset obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago that was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if that was a real promise of hope for the poor both black and white through the poverty program. What experiment's hopes new beginning. Then came the build up in Vietnam. And I watched this program broken and rated as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.
And I knew that America would never invest the necessary energy is in rehab dilatation of it. So long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction too. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor. And to attacked it as such. Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place. When it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending them and their brothers and husbands to fight. And to die an extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been
crippled by our society and sending them 8000 a way to guarantee Leavitt is in South East Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the courage of watching Negro and white boys on TV screen as a kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to see them together. In the same school. So we watch them and brutal solidarity. Burning the hearts of a poor village but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor. My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness.
5 grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the north over the last three years especially the last three summers as I have walked among the desperate rejected and angry young men. I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles. Would not solve the problems. I have tried to offer them peace compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningful if through nonviolent action. But they ask and rightly so. What about Vietnam. They ask of our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted. Questions hit home and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of
the oppressed in the ghetto without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today my own government for the sake of those of Boaz for the sake of this government for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under violence. I cannot be silent. For those who ask the question Are you a civil rights leader. And I mean to exclude me from the movement for peace. I have this further and in 1957 when a group of us from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference we chose a motto to save the soul of America. We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people. But instead affirm the conviction that America would never
be free save from itself. Until the descendants of its slaves would lose completely from the shackles a studio where in a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes that Black Bart of Harlem. Who had written earlier. Oh yes I say it plain America never was America to me. And yet I swear this all America will be. Now it should be clear. That no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally paused and part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of man the world over.
So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be led down the path of protest and dissent working for the health of our land. As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough another burden of responsibility it was placed upon me in 1954. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances. But even if it were not present. I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is
so obvious. That I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against a wall. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men for communists and capitalists for that children and it was for black and white for revolutionary and conservative and they had forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them. What then can I say to the Viet Cong. To Castro to Mao as a faithful minister this one. And I threatened them with death must I not share with them my life. Finally as I tried to explain for you and for myself the role that leads from Montgomery to this place. I would have offered all
that was most valid if I simply sad that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the Living God. Beyond the calling of race our nation our creed is this vocation of sun Shippen Brotherhood. Because I believe that the father is deeply concerned. Especially if his suffering and helpless and outcast children I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem allegiances and loyalties. Which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak. Father the voiceless. Father a victim
of our nation and for those it calls enemy for no document from human hands and make these humans any less our brother. And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam. And such within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion my mind goes constant led to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers. Not of the idiology of the Liberation Front not of the hunting side but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution. That until some attempt is made to know them and hear
that broken cry they must see Americans as liberators. Vietnamese people proclaim their own independence in 1954 in 1945 rather after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China they were led by Holcim men even though they called it the American Declaration of Independence and the document of freedom. We refused to recognize them and instead we decided to support friends and it's a reconquest of a former colony. Our government felt then that the V and Vietnamese people were not ready for independence and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has pause in the international
atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by the Vietnamese have no great law. But back indigenous forces that included some communists for the peasants this new government meant real land reform. One of the most important needs and. For nine years following 1945. We denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence for nine years we vigorously supported the French and that abortive effort to recall and eyes Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting 80 percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated DMB and they began to dispatch
out of their reckless action. But we did not. We encouraged them with financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the wheel. Soon we would be paying almost the cost of this tragic attempt at re colonization after the French were defeated. It looked as if independence. Would come again through the Geneva agreement but instead stad that came the United States determined that hole should not unify the temporarily divided nation and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators and Premier DMN peasants watched in Krenz does DMN ruthless routed out all opposition supported that extortionist landlords and
refused to discuss reunification with the North. It has and is watched as all this was presided over by United States and friends and then by an increasing number of United States troops who came to have quail and surgeons said that DM's methods had a ruse. And DMN was overthrown. They may have been happy but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change especially in terms of the need for land and peace. The only change came from America. As we increased our troop commitments and support of governments which was singularly corrupt and apt and without popular support. Although the people read flits and received a regular promise is that peace and democracy and land reform.
They languish under and consider not that Vietnamese. The real enemy they move sadly and apathetically as we heard them of the land of their fathers in the concentration camps where minimal social needs a rally met. They know. They must move on. I'll be destroyed. By. A bomb. So they go primarily women and children and ages. They watch as we pause and water. As we kill a million acres of back crops. They must weep as the bulldozers rolled through the areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wandered into the hospitals with at least 20 casualties from American fire power for one Vietcong inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them
mostly children. They wandered into the towns and see thousands of the children homeless without clothes run in and packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by soldiers as they begged for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers soliciting for them. What do the peasants think as we allow ourselves with the landlords. And as we refused to put into action and too many words concerning land reform. What do they think is we test out our latest weapons on them. Just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new torches in the concentration camps of Europe. Well the roots of the independent Vietnam we claimed to be building. Is it among the VAs we have
destroyed that most cherished institutions. The family and the village. We have destroyed the land and back crops. We have cooperated in crushing in the question of the nation's only noncommunist a revolutionary a political force a unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemy is the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted the women and children and killed their men. Now that is little left to build on save bitterness. Soon they have solid physical foundations remaining will be found at military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call the fortified Hamlets the peasants may well wonder if we planned to build a new Vietnam on such grounds as these. But we blame them
for such thoughts. We must speak for them and raise a question they cannot raise these to our brother. Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as enemies. What of the National Liberation Front that strangely anonymous group we call DCA communists. What must they think of. The United States of America. And they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of DMN which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south. What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to the taking up of om. How can they believe in odd integrity when we speak of aggression from the
north. As if that were nothing more essential to the war. How can they trust us when we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of DMN Zam with violence while we pour every weapon of death into that land. Sure that we must understand that feelings even if we do not condone their actions surely we must see that the man we supported pressed them to the violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction. Simply that greatest acts. How do they judge us when our officials know them membership. Is less than 25 percent communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name. What must they be thinking when they know that we are way out of that control of major sections of
Vietnam. And yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which there is highly organized political parallel government will not. Have a party. They ask how we can speak of free elections when the SOG gone press censored and controlled by the military hunta and they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we planned to help. Without them. The only party in a real touch with the peasants they question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. That questions are frighteningly relevant. Is nation planning to build on political myth again and then show it up the power to the new violence. Here it is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the end in this point of
- Beyond Vietnam
- Producing Organization
- WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program presents the first part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, "Beyond Vietnam."
- Series Description
- A speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., given at Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967, and sponsored by Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam.
- Asset type
- Social Issues
- Media type
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
Speaker: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: cpb-aacip-7d8b6c987b9 (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Beyond Vietnam; Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, part one,” 1967-04-18, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 21, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bv79x35h.
- MLA: “Beyond Vietnam; Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, part one.” 1967-04-18. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 21, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bv79x35h>.
- APA: Beyond Vietnam; Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bv79x35h