It is well known that Jane Addams was a pacifist; opposing World War I was perhaps the primary reason she earned the title, “most dangerous woman in America.” But today I’m remembering another leader in the peace movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King isn’t always remembered as an anti-war activist, though he spoke out strongly against the war in Vietnam toward the end of his life. He knew this would make many people uncomfortable… it still does. But as I read the text for King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” I realize that Dr. King, like Jane Addams, recognized the interconnectedness of social justice struggles and the importance of working for freedom and peace for all people. In his words:
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. – Martin Luther King Jr. April 4, 1967
Today is a good day to explore the work of Dr. King. Please do watch his memorable “I Have A Dream” speech… but take the time also to consider Dr. King from a new perspective. Here are some suggestions for where to start: