As an unexpected Christmas gift, Aaron Worthing got me The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. on CD. I took a drive up to Big Bear with my son this weekend (a father-son “Indian Guides” trip), and on the way up and back we played the CDs. I was already well into the CDs from previous drives to work, so we heard the “I Have a Dream” speech on CD 4 near the end of our drive on Saturday. On the way back we started with King’s eulogy for 4 martyred children in Birmingham.
It was just a coincidence that we were listening to the speeches of King on this day, but it was a fitting one.
King was an expert at rhetoric, and his speeches were powerful and compelling as delivered in his voice. Nobody is without fault, but he was a tremendous force for good in this country. He stood at all times for nonviolence and noncooperation with evil. His story is a stirring one and it is good to have a day to remember him.
There is still evil in the world, and we still must fight to eradicate it. MLK reminds us to do so with dignity and peacefulness — but never to give in; always to resist evil with courage and steadfastness. Let us all follow King’s example and fight evil where we find it.
UPDATE: From the eulogy:
These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.
And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.
It’s a case study in effective rhetoric, and it’s impossible to come away unmoved.