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Anniversary of MLK’s Beyond Vietnam Speech

By Arianna Chen, Junior Editor

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Martin Luther King Jr., the esteemed civil rights activist, is praised for his famous I Have a Dream speech that he made during the March on Washington. However, April 4th marks the anniversary of a not-so-popular speech from the King: Beyond Vietnam. 

Specifically, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence was given by MLK after he promised to participate in an anti-Vietnam War march to the United Nations. In the same year that MLK gave this speech, American forces in Vietnam totaled about 485,000 men. These American forces in Vietnam faced treacherous conditions; they faced brutal guerilla warfare tactics and participated in “search and destroy” missions that killed both the North and South Vietnamese people.

King’s speech is said to have “sealed King’s fate,” considering that this speech was given exactly one year before his unfortunate death.

However, Beyond Vietnam was a particularly notable speech because it was given despite mass opposition to him even preaching about the Vietnam War. Many of his own supporters denounced Martin Luther King Jr. for speaking about the Vietnam War because they feared that him straying from his preaching about civil rights would harm the movement.

King spoke fervently about how “war is not the answer” and how our eminent choice in life is “nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.

Although this was certainly not King’s most popular speech, this choice that King forewarned America about is still festering in American politics today. America, fifty years after King gave this speech in Riverside Church, is still facing the same problems that plagued us back then. Still, we teeter between the two options of nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.

It seems that King was prophetically preaching about the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism” that seem to be omnipresent in Trump’s presidency, whether it be the “Muslim ban,” the construction of the wall to keep out the so-called “killers and rapists” (a.k.a. Mexicans), or the transgender laws that prohibit students from using their gender-identified bathrooms.

And looking back, this is a sad day in history. Not only was King murdered because he was fighting for equality, but his dreams and hopes for the future of America have not been realized even after half a century later.

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Anniversary of MLK’s Beyond Vietnam Speech