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Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘The Quest for Peace and Justice’

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking at the Civil Rights March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Photo from U.S. National Archives.

This blog post is excerpted from Dr. Martin Luther King's Nobel Lecture from Dec. 11, 1964, entitled "The Quest for Peace and Justice." Read the full speech here.

Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad ... . This problem of poverty is not only seen in the class division between the highly developed industrial nations and the so-called underdeveloped nations; it is seen in the great economic gaps within the rich nations themselves ... . There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it ... . There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will ... . Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed -- not only in its symptoms, but its basic causes. this, too, will be a fierce struggle. But we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task ... .

This is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men [and women] ... . 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 of 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 me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are developing a new sense of "some-bodiness" and carving a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive.

Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men [and women].

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered this lecture in the Auditorium of the University of Oslo. This text is taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1964.

 

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