I Cried Today

as I watched the I Have a Dream speech with my kids.* Truly one of the greatest speeches in American history.

Then I wondered what Dr. King’s sermons must have been like, so I yet again put my trust in the Google.

I found the text of his sermon at the National Cathedral of 31 March 1968, entitled “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution.” This sermon amazed me in its similarity to much of what Rudolf Steiner said about consciousness, nationalism, and brotherhood in economics.

This struck me as profound and still a lesson we need to learn, thirty years later:

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

And then this from later in the sermon, which if we but change a few proper names is eerily applicable still today:

[The Vietnam War] has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of the Vietnamese people when we have not even put our own house in order. And we force young black men and young white men to fight and kill in brutal solidarity. Yet when they come back home that can’t hardly live on the same block together.

The judgment of God is upon us today. And we could go right down the line and see that something must be done—and something must be done quickly. We have alienated ourselves from other nations so we end up morally and politically isolated in the world. There is not a single major ally of the United States of America that would dare send a troop to Vietnam, and so the only friends that we have now are a few client-nations like Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and a few others.


I hope that we are approaching the day when the content of our characters matters most. I hope we are approaching the day when the United States can find some sort of moral compass. I hope that we can continue to work toward one goal King gave in his “I Have a Dream” speech: “Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

To close, words from the National Cathedral sermon on hope:

Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I’m going to maintain hope as we come to Washington in this campaign. The cards are stacked against us. This time we will really confront a Goliath. God grant that we will be that David of truth set out against the Goliath of injustice, the Goliath of neglect, the Goliath of refusing to deal with the problems, and go on with the determination to make America the truly great America that it is called to be.


* Yes, the kids sat through the 17-minute speech. Mostly. We had wanted to volunteer today at the Idaho Food Bank, but the minimum age is 7 in the warehouse, so we’ll have to wait until SillyBilly’s next birthday. The kids asked to celebrate MLK Day in some way, so I thought we would go right to the source.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Deep Thoughts, Politics, Religion

10 responses to “I Cried Today

  1. Thanks for those beautiful, inspiring words. If nothing else, I think we are in for a big change of attitude in America. From fear and cynicism to hope and hard work. At least, I feel my attitude changing and I hope others are too!

  2. Nana

    I’m pleased you had a chance to hear and see one of the the most historic speeches ever given in the U.S. I saw that speech live on TV and what touched me most was some footage of Dr. King from behind, showing one man at the podium and a huge crowd of people listening to him. Amazing.

    I lived through the entire MLK epoch and it was, to say the least, revolutionary. I saw the police with their dogs refusing to allow black children enter an all white school in Alabama. I saw what happened when President Kennedy sent in the National Guard to escort those children into that school.

    It was very difficult for me to understand the pure hatred I saw in the eyes of the white crowd outside the school. You see, my parents were immigrants and, in the first school I attended, there were only
    2 white children in my classroom. Needless to say, my early childhood friends were of a different skin color than mine. IT DID NOT MATTER. My best friends were Judy and Patty.

    Last, I have always been suspicious of the word ‘tolerance’. It suggests such grudgingly given acceptance of something which you cannot change, but wish you could.

  3. Thank you for posting the link to the speech. I remember I watched it last year to, but this year, watching it brought new feelings of hope and pride that made me a little teary eyed with happiness.

  4. I think I may be teary-eyed today! The girls and I watched the concert on Sunday. There was so much history there and it was fun to talk about the various speeches.

  5. Mon

    Great words to share. (although you had me worried when I saw just your post title!)
    MLK’s speech gets me every time. And I’m not American, no lived through those days. I just somehow feel it’s weight in importance.

    Whatever happens with your new president, I think the sense of hope is a good thing. That alone can make changes in people’s ordinary lives, even if not the nation. I tried to explain this to those over here, across the pond, who are skeptical and cringed at Sunday’s concert. Hope is never a bad thing. America and the world needs that right now.

  6. Tammy

    What an appropriate time for a post like this with his birthday and the inauguration.

    Dr. King was an amazing person with morals, courage, and strength.

    I also think our country turned a new corner yesterday…..

  7. Thank you for finding the original texts to these historical words… it is one thing to “hear them” — which grips me with an, shall I say it, an “audacity of hope,” quite another to see them in printed form. I swear these words seem to have a life of their own — even while lying dormant on the page.

  8. Thanks for this – I really must go and look them up for myself.

  9. Henry David Thoreau was an inspiration to Martin Luther King Jr., as well as to Gandhi. As I saw the picture of Gandhi and read those words form MLK– as you note, still timely today — I realized that just as America really is a country that has the capacity for great wisdom and great foolishness. There is something that reflects the best of American/western culture in Thoreau and King — a sense of spiritual individualism, rising above social customs and looking for a moral truth that the spirit knows as self-evident. The foolishness comes when we take that sense of truth and turn it into aggression and fear — trying to force others in the world to reflect our convictions, or fearing that we will be destroyed by those who are different. The wisdom is to live by those truths in a way which doesn’t contradict them. Great idea on how to celebrate MLK day. When my kids get a bit older (they are 5 and 3 now) I’ll have to try that. Being white, I find it very satisfying that my two young children will see it as normal and good to have a black man as President. That has to make a difference.

  10. Thanks everyone.

    Mon: Sorry, I couldn’t think of a different title at the time!

    Scott: One of my favorite topics in college was the Transcendentalists. What an amazing time that was in the American thought life!

    I think what happens to us is that we forget that it’s a *spiritual* individualism, and we get stuck in a materialistic form of it. I mentioned on your blog today that I just finished proofing a manuscript on the future of American liberalism. At one point the author talked about John Wayne and how he is held up as a paragon of the American way (even eulogized that way by President Carter!) and yet in his films he is always socially isolated and unable to do more than come to town, fix a problem, and swagger off into the sunset. Not much soul there. (I haven’t seen any of his films, and I’m seriously paraphrasing here.)

    I also spoke on your blog about this concept of American Exceptionalism. As if the US has a special destiny and role in the world. I think on some levels that’s true, but it has been warped again by materialistic thinking. Instead of bringing that moral truth you spoke of, our sense of exceptionalism now manifests in trodding right over other people’s selfhood. And you hit the nail on the head when you brought in the aspect of fear. The Statue of Liberty’s formal name is “Liberty Enlightening the World”. You can’t enlighten out of fear.

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