Jan. 16, 2005 — One year almost to the day before he was killed Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech to a meeting of concerned clergy and lay people at the Riverside Church in New York City. The focus of the gathering was the Vietnam War. The speech, one of King's lesser known, is chillingly pertinent today. We ran this speech last year in our editorial section. As the violence and brutality of war has escalated in the past year, we have chosen to put it on the front page in honor of the man who embodied, for Americans, the meaning of non-violence.
" There is at the outset a very 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 there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
Poverty, the breakdown of public education and the attendant hopelessness have continued and worsened since that day nearly 38 years ago. The young and not-so-young men and women of the Virgin Islands have been yanked from their homes and families to serve in a chaotic war half-way around the world that few understand.
The cacophony of rage, exacerbated by alcohol and drug abuse, has drowned out King's message closer to home.
And where do we find hope in a world of greed and self-centeredness that overcomes everything in its path even the will of the people.
In offering this reminder, this memory of a man whose courage and intelligence, whose commitment to non-violence and love literally changed the world, we hope that we can find inspiration, renewed faith and energy to pick up where King left off 37 years ago and say no to violence as a solution for anything.
The best tribute we could provide was to offer the words of the man who stood far above the crowd in his commitment to peace and an end to poverty and ignorance.
To read the entire speech click on the title: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.
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