Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King's Last Speech

On April 3, 1968, the night before he died, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in a Memphis church and concluded with these words:

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

"And so I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

His foreboding was more than rhetoric. A decade later in an article I published, his father wrote that Dr. King had visited him weeks before to prepare his parents for the possibility he would be killed.

“The reports are that they are out to get me,” he told them. “I have to go on with my work, I’m too deeply involved now to get out, it’s all too important. Sometimes I want to stop. Just go away somewhere and have some quiet days, finally, a quiet life with Coretta and the children. But it’s too late for that now. I have my path before me. I know what I have to do.”

The man whose life we celebrate today gave it up for a vision of better lives for generations to come.

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