Tavis Smiley makes the point that Dr. King is routinely remembered for his "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington. But Smiley suggests that the real greatness, the tempered steel of King's commitment to truth and justice shone most clearly in his last year of life when he came to the conclusion that civil rights without economic rights, civil rights without a job, without access to education, was a hollow victory. He realized that the the twin pillars of racism and militarism, so starkly evident in the reality of the VietNam war, were leading our country to "moral bankruptcy". He made these pronouncements at the Riverside Baptist church in New York one year to the day before he was assassinated. Many of his advisors and allies pleaded with him to hold off on his criticism of the war, that it would harm the civil rights movement. Whole groups of religious leaders and mainstream media blasted King as a traitor who was misleading his people. The Nobel Peace Prize winner became an object of scorn from commentators throughout the land.
But King persisted and proceeded to form the Poor People's Campaign, to forge a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement for Peace and economic justice. Tho the death threats came in daily, and the FBI hounded and sought to destroy him, King went on with great courage. His last stop, so symbolic, was to help sanitation workers in Memphis.
I think about the courage that it takes to walk into that wind, up the mountain, over the sharp rocks, to turn your head from the jeers and catcalls, to lead your people towards the Promised land.
That is the quality I find most amazing and rare. I hope our kids hear that story. Not just King as the triumphant leader of the fight for civil rights, but as a person stood courageously for peace and economic justice.
"Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.
When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair,
and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights,
let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe,
working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil,
a power that is able to make a way out of no way
and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends towards justice." ~ MLK