In April 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at New York’s Riverside Church about the war being fought by the U.S. in Asia at that time, in Vietnam. His words remind us of the choices we now face about war and peace at home and abroad:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring…. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows… of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs for social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.