On this day, dedicated to the memory the Reverend Martin Luther King and his message, I would like to recall part of his statement on the occasion of receving the Nobel Prize:
“I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. … I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!”
As a man of vision King was talking about peace and justice, morality and human dignity, and unabashedly mentioned God. He was not commenting on the wrestling match between logic and faith, not worshiping or deriding science, nor extolling or pooh-poohing religion. Rather, he was speaking in terms of hope and the human potential for the good.
Visionary leaders of his stature don’t emerge too often in history. But we may rejoice that such people can and do emerge in human history.
January 15, 2012