• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Martin Luther King Day, 2012

 

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
1964
I grew up in an America that had an abiding faith in itself and what America stood for. My grandparents—together with my infant mother—were those huddled masses yearning to be free. Like so many others, they emigrated to America to escape the Anti-Semitism of Eastern Europe. My father was the first in his family to go to college. He and my uncles fought for freedom, defeating the Germans in World War II. Theirs was the story of millions of immigrants who had come to this American nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Except, we hadn’t all come to America free and equal. Some of us had been brought here to be slaves, to be the chattel of other men, to be bought and sold like cattle, with no regard for husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter.
I grew up in an America where legally-mandated segregation was reality. In America’s South, Blacks could not vote, could not drink from “White Only” water fountains, could not eat at “White Only” lunch counters, could not swim in “White Only” pools, and could not pray in “White Only” churches. Black children were educated in segregated schools, separate although far from equal. Black men felt the need to cross the street when a white man was coming, fearing for themselves and their families. In the 1920s, the decade of King’s birth, there were nearly 500 lynchings of Blacks by Whites in America.
It turns out that we the people didn’t mean ALL the people. It didn’t mean the slaves, nor did it mean their descendants. Nor did it mean the Native Americans whose lands we took as our own.
The Civil Rights Movement, the period when I came of political age, like the Civil War before it, exposed this fault-line in the American ideal, the lie in our creed that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We weren’t all created equal, not at our founding, not in 1860, not in 1960. And we still aren’t created equal today.
In the 44 years since King’s assassination, we have become considerably less equal. While the details are open to interpretation, the overwhelming conclusion by just about any measure is that the rich have gotten considerably richer while the poor have gotten poorer.
It is not class warfare to acknowledge this. The children of the rich have greater opportunity than do the children of the poor; they are born more equal than poor children, with far greater opportunities for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It would be class warfare if one argued that we the people should confiscate the riches of the wealthy few and distribute them to the many poor. But this would not be just. Nor would it square with our creed of equality.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
But it’s not class warfare to point out that we the people are all in this together. It’s not class warfare when Warren Buffett argues that the rich have a responsibility to pay higher taxes noting that he pays a lower tax rate than his office staff. Nor is it class warfare when Elizabeth Warren, running for Senate in Massachusetts, says: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
We are in the midst of the 2012 Presidential election cycle, one that already appears destined to be about our religious and economic values. To vote wisely we will have to reflect on how we the people can best allocate our scarce resources so all have opportunity, where all contribute, where none are left out. Class warfare isn’t the answer. Nor is pure laissez faire capitalism. We the people must give birth to a new way.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
When we believe in the dream, when we keep our faith that one day America will rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed, that’s when we are ready to step up and do our part to make it happen. Imagine if we the people committed to treating each other with respect, with understanding, with compassion and with that special feeling that we are part of a shared American community. Miracles occur in the strangest of places.
Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our problems won’t vanish simply because we live America’s creed. There are no silver bullets in a world as complex as ours.
But as we live America’s creed, we unleash our imagination, our creativity, our ability to work hard, our sense of community, our readiness for shared-sacrifice, our entrepreneurial spirit; all those qualities that define what is exceptional in America.
Martin Luther King’s faith is our faith, we the people. It is a faith born out of our religious traditions, our shared experiences, our sacrifices and our successes. It is a faith that lives strong in our hearts — infused by our creed that all men are created equal and reflected in our responsibility, we the people, to form that more perfect union, to establish justice, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. It is a faith that knows no color, a faith that knows no gender or sexual preference, a faith that resides in red states and blue, for King’s faith is the faith of America.
So on this day when we celebrate the anniversary of that glorious day when the universe brought Martin Luther King Jr. to us, let us commit ourselves anew to the sacred task that lies before us; to live out the true meaning of America’s creed, our creed, yours and mine, we the people.
Let freedom ring.
Copyright © 2012. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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