Today we honor the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many Arizonans will likely recall that former Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded MLK Day in 1987, but a statewide vote re-instated it in 1992, making Arizona one of the last states to adopt the MLK holiday.
Of course, many will remember King as a champion of civil rights and economic justice, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and worldwide recognition. Less well known is King's deeply-held belief that "war is not the answer," and his outspoken opposition to the conflict in
King didn't come late to this issue, after public support for the war eroded and it became safe to stand against it. He began voicing concerns about warfare in the early 1960s and continued until his death in 1968. Looking back at his anti-war speeches, they remain equally relevant today. I'd like to share some of his words with you, starting with the Nobel acceptance speech in 1964:
"Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. ... We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path." Here, King asks us to acknowledge the historical evidence that war doesn't bring peace, which we reject at our peril.
In mid-1965, King said that "anyone who feels that the problems of mankind can be solved through violence is sleeping through a revolution," invoking the lessons of the civil rights struggle where he advocated strict nonviolence to achieve social justice.
In early 1967, King spoke pointedly about then-current events: "I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history's most cruel and senseless wars." With these words, he called upon Americans to demand adherence to the values that define a great nation.
Later that year, in calling for an immediate end to hostilities and a timetable for withdrawal, King connected the related injustices of war, racism, and poverty: "I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam."
Finally, on March 31, 1968, just weeks before his assassination, King offered words that still resound: "Our involvement in Vietnam has ... put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. Here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for ... so-called freedom . . . when we have not even put our own house in order."
These are mere snippets from a lifetime in the tireless pursuit of peace and justice. King wasn't perfect, but we'd all benefit from having more people with his vision and courage in American politics today.