News Release

Martin Luther King: “Our Only Hope…”


Sen. Barack Obama speaks at Invesco Field in Denver to accept the Democratic Party presidential nomination tonight, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the National March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

Here are excerpts from King’s sermon “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated:

“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 this 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. …

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.”

Full text and audio
Excerpts of audio on YouTube of a follow-up sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church

Gray is author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics and the forthcoming The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.

He said today: “Let’s not lose sight of what the progressive movement is and what our issues are. They go beyond ending a particular war, it goes to ending the U.S. role as an empire. …

“The poverty numbers just came out this week. They are going up and there are far more people in the U.S. living in poverty today than when King was assassinated. We need to address the structural changes that are necessary in the United States no matter who is president if we are to finally make good on the ‘promissory note’ King talked about in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
More Information

Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University. She recently wrote the piece “Obama and the Sisters.”

She is a contributing writer at and is author of the forthcoming Sister Citizen: A Text for Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Politics When Being Strong Isn’t Enough.

Author of the new book Peaceful, Positive Revolution: Economic Security for Every American, Shafarman said today: “King’s dream evolved after the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963. In 1968, in his last book — Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? — King concluded that a guaranteed national income was a major goal.” Excerpts from King’s book are available online.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167