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Dr. Martin Luther King's prophetic voice was silenced forty years ago. Yet his persistent and courageous call for a better America is as equally relevant today as it was then -- particularly his challenging words concerning what he saw as the three evils: racism, materialism, and militarism. It is 2008 and a lot of people want to know, can you hear Dr. King now?1  

"One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage is in the final analysis as significant as the physician, for if he doesn't do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity."2

"I have taken a position against the administration's policy. I would hope the president means what he says when he says that there should always be room for dissent. We come to a tragic period in our nation when we equate dissent with disloyalty. I believe firmly that it is necessary to have these moments of dissent in order to challenge something that may be leading the whole nation down the wrong path."3

"And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."4

"I haven't only urged Negroes not to fight. I feel that the war is so unjust, so abominable, so futile and bloody and costly that nobody should be fighting there. I haven't limited my concern to just the American Negro although I know we are dying in disproportionate numbers there and we are on the losing end both there and at home. Because as long as the war in Vietnam continues social programs will inevitably suffer here at home."5

"The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation. One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, 'Why don't you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out.' There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation - the people on the wrong side - have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will."6

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;' who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'"7

"Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn't see the poor. His nave was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the prable ends saying, 'Dives went to hell, and there was a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives.' There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. ... Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible."8

Sources:

1. Regarding the idea of Dr. King and "Can You Hear Me Now?" Soulforce gives credit to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Rev. Wright delivered a speech on January 16, 2006 in Lexington, Kentucky in which he repeatedly asked the audience if they could hear Dr. King now.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central Publishing, 2001), pp. 352-353.

3. From an interview on the Mike Douglas Show, November 2, 1967. The footage can be found on King - Man of Peace in a Time of War, (Passport Video, 2007).

4. Beyond Vietnam speech delivered April 4, 1967. The quote can be found in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Warner Books, 2002), p. 142.

5. From an interview on the Mike Douglas Show, November 2, 1967. The footage can be found on King - Man of Peace in a Time of War.

6. From a sermon titled Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution delivered March 31, 1968. It was Dr. King's last Sunday morning sermon. The quote can be found in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 270.

7. Letter from Birmingham Jail as found in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 295.

8. From a sermon titled Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution delivered March 31, 1968. The quote can be found in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., pp. 273-274.