My Martin Luther King, Jr. day tradition is to listen to the speech he made at my alma mater, Drew University, in Madison, New Jersey, on Feb 5, 1964 (nearly a quarter century before I attend).
What strikes me about the speech is the humor (he quotes a joke by comedian Bob Hope) and how he is enamored with how technology makes the world smaller, bringing us all closer together.
It becomes our choice: Live with each other in peace or fight in endless conflicts.
If he were here today he would marvel at the way we can communicate instantaneously at zero (marginal) cost. I have no doubt that he would try to inspire us all to use that to unite as one.
Here’s my favorite paragraph from the speech:
… if the American Dream is to be a reality we must develop a world perspective. It goes without saying that the world in which we live is geographically one, and now more than ever before we are challenged to make it one in terms of brotherhood. Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through man’s scientific ingenuity. Man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. I think Bob Hope has adequately described this new jet age in which we live. He said it is an age in which it is possible to take a nonstop flight from Los Angeles, California to New York City, a distance of some 3,000 miles…and if on taking off in Los Angeles you develop hiccups, you will “hic” in Los Angeles and “cup” in New York City.. . (laughter) …You know, it is possible because of the time difference to take a jet flight from Tokyo, Japan on Sunday morning and arrive in Seattle, Washington on the preceding Saturday night; and when your friends meet you at the airport and ask you when you left Tokyo, you would have to say I left tomorrow…(laughter)…This is the kind of world in which we live. Now this is a bit humorous, but I’m trying to laugh a basic fact into all of us, and it is simply this: through our scientific genius we have made of this world a neighborhood, and now through our moral and ethical commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. This is the challenge of the hour. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone. Somehow we are interdependent.
When politicians say things like “NATO is worthless” or dismisses the value of allies, it scares me.
Dr. King’s speech at Drew University was made shortly after his “An American Dream” speech, and contains echos of that and other speeches he’s made.
You can listen to it or read it here: