top of page

Today is the 50th Anniversary of MLK's speech: "Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break the Silence"

April 4, 2017

"I am convinced that if we are to get on to 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, extreme materialism, and militarism

are incapable of being conquered."

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

People of Love,

I bring your attention to the prophetic and somber importance of today, April 4, 2017. Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most important speeches the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ever delivered, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence" at Riverside Church in New York City. This speech was a stinging rebuke of the United States' military aggression in Vietnam and its rising profile as a violent defender of democracy and world peace throughout our global community. Dr. King called out the United States as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, inflicted by the giant triplets of Racism, extreme Militarism and Materialism. We are still sickened by these giant triplets today.

We are situated at an unprecedented place in our nation's history. While we are watching the absurd and alarming unraveling of our democratic identity on a national level, we are also experiencing a renewed sense of activism and engagement in our local political process. The results have been encouraging. However, in the fifty years since Dr. King shone a great light on the pervasive cancer in our national body, we have not struck at the root of our primary deficiencies. I believe that our collective preference to contort and adjust our way of living together around these giant triplets of Racism, extreme Militarism and Materialism have brought our nation to the place where we are now: a shallow embrace of socially popular solutions that attempt to bandage a deep and festering wound in the body politic. What is the purpose of diversity training if we do not also undo the insidious pervasiveness of racism? How long will we continue to terrorize vulnerable communities with highly-militarized policing tactics until will we acknowledge that violence has become our common solution to falsely create peace? Why do we shun the economically oppressed for their apparent "failure" to realize the so-called American dream while we simultaneously celebritize a select few for successfully ascending to the top of their corporate class with the assistance of a privileged education, capital investments, mentors and other "golden opportunities"? The giant triplets will plague us as long as we choose to believe the lies we tell ourselves.

The real question is: When will we be brave enough to do the deep analysis of the root of our cyclical problems and then employ real solutions to address our disease? If we do not, we will succumb to another 50 years of comforting band-aids and happy songs that create communities for some, but not for all. In my opinion, we do not have the luxury of time to meander down that path for another half-century, for our very lives are at stake.

Precisely one year after Dr. King articulated the truth from the Riverside pulpit, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was killed by a sniper's bullet as he stood on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The plaque facing the spot where he was killed reads, "Behold, here comes the dreamer. Let us slay him and we shall see what becomes of his dreams." (Genesis 37:19-20) People of Love, what will become of YOUR dreams?

Take time this week to read the full text of Dr. King's speech. After you read it, share the speech with others and tell them what you thought of the speech. Start the conversation and keep it going. The time to unite is more necessary than ever.

In hope for Justice with Peace,

Rev. Doris K. Dalton, Executive Director


Recent Posts

See All

Mourning and Thanksgiving

On Saturday morning, I was among the mourners at my aunt's funeral when the nation fell into deep mourning over the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. As I grieved with my fami

The Courage We Need

September 19, 2018 Zeid Ra'ad Hussein finished his term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 1, 2018. Before he stepped down, he penned an op-ed for The Economist, "Grassroots Leaders


bottom of page