America has enjoyed some great orators in its history. Of these, Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of the indisputable best. Dr. King, being both a preacher and a social activist, gave speeches on a regular basis. Martin Luther King Jr. speeches always offered the audience a message about Christianity, love, peace and social justice. As a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King speeches captivated and challenged the nation with the words found in “Loving Your Enemies, “Beyond Vietnam”, and “Where Do We Go from Here.” These texts, along with the “I Have a Dream Speech”, given in 1963 during the March on Washington, demonstrate the complexity of Martin Luther King Jr. speeches.
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
Already an international figure after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. King gave the “Loving Your Enemies” sermon before a congregation at his home church on November 17, 1957. Understanding that his congregants, mostly African Americans, faced difficulties embracing peaceful protests in the face of sometime extreme violence, this Martin Luther King Jr. speech instructed them in the meaning of love. This speech equated love with being Christ-like. Then, he went on to preach about the different types of love. Agape love, for example, was one of the highest forms. At this level, the person loves another with no desire for anything in return. It was this sort of love that King wanted his followers in the Civil Rights Movement to adopt.
Listen now to an excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Speech: “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop”:
On April 7, 1967, Dr. King spoke before the Riverside Church in New York City. In this Martin Luther King Jr. speech, entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, he broke ranks with President Lyndon Baines Johnson over the Vietnam War. King, who had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963, no longer felt he could remain quiet about American foreign policy. He informed the crowd that his “conscience left no other choice.” Silence amounted to a betrayal of one’s conscience, he continued. It was time for him to denounce what he perceived as an unjust war in Southeast Asia. His words placed the Civil Right Movement in unison with the peace movement for the first time. As a result of this speech, President Johnson withdrew much of his public support for Dr. King.
As head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King spoke to the organization on August 16, 1967, in its hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. The Civil Rights Movement had accomplished its goal of eradicating racial segregation laws in the South. Nevertheless, urban riots in African American communities of the North and West demonstrated that problems persisted. In “Where Do We Go from Here”, King delineates the economic and political problems facing America. He wanted the government to ensure a guaranteed income. The speech also denounced African Americans who had begun using violence as a means to express their frustrations.
These Martin Luther King Speeches are among some of his best. Any person interested in understanding the things this famous American wanted for his nation should know them well.