By 1967, Martin Luther King had become the country’s most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic.
In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 a year to the day before he was murdered, Martin Luther King called the United States the greatest outlet of violence in the world today.
Time magazine called the speech, demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi, and the Washington Post declared that King had diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, and his people.
The Speech was delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.
He said in the speech that he come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because his conscience leaves him with no other choice. And said that he joined with everyone in the meeting because he was in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought them together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam.
Some of them 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 they must speak. They must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to their limited vision, but they must speak.
Over the past two years, as he have moved to break the betrayal of his own silences and to speak from the burnings of his own heart, as he have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned him about the wisdom of his path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud, he said.
It is not 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 or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem.
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle he, 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, he said.
Third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers.
As he have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men and he have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.
He had tried to offer them his deepest compassion while maintaining his conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.
Now, it should be incandescently 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 poisoned, part of it must read Vietnam.
It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of them who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As he tries to delineate for all and for himself the road that leads from Montgomery to that place he would have offered all that was most valid if he simply said that he must be true to his conviction that he share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God.
Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son ship and brotherhood, and because he believed that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, he come to speak for them.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to decolonize Vietnam.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela.
This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”