Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - 1966 Convocation
And it is my firm conviction that as we move on in the days ahead, we must work passionately
and unrelentingly for first-class citizenship. We must never use second-class methods
to gain it. In the South we must continue the struggle but now we must see that in
the North it is necessary for a massive assault on all of the evils of ghetto and
slum life in order to make justice and freedom a reality for all of God’s children.
For the legislative victories that we have gained over the last 10 years have served
to rectify long standing evils of the South but they have done very little to penetrate
the lower depths of deprivation and poverty of the Negro in ghettos of the North.
And so by the thousands and by the millions, Negroes in the North find themselves
frustrated and confused and sometimes bitter and in despair because of the slowness
of progress and the failure of communities and its leadership to face the changes
and make the necessary concessions to avoid the recurrence of those things that have
developed and brought such dark night of social disruption as a Watts area of Los
Angeles. And we must build a great America. It cannot be built on violence. It
cannot be built on riots. And everybody must work hard to build a climate and to
change the conditions that make for the bitterness and that make for the agony that
cause individuals to turn to this kind of self-destruction. These are some of the
challenges facing the future and I am convinced that if the challenges are met we
can move into a brighter tomorrow. It means that there must be divine discontent.
There are certain technical words within every academic discipline, which soon become
stereotypes and cliches. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature.
Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in psychology.
It is the word maladjusted. And certainly we hear this word a great deal. And I’m
sure all of us want to live the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and
schizophrenic personalities. But I must honestly say to you, as I’ve said before,
there are some things in our nation and in our world of which I’m proud to be maladjusted,
which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good societies realize.
I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and
discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry.
"With this faith we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children,
black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able
to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free
at last, thank God almighty we are free at last."
I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities
from the many to give luxuries to the few and leave men by the thousands and millions
smothering in an air- tight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.
I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of
militarism in the self-defeating effects of physical violence. For in a day when
Sputniks and Geminis are dashing through outer space, and the guided ballistic missiles
are causing highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can ultimately win
a war. It is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence. It is either
non-violence or non-existence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative
to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to a negotiated settlement
of the crisis in Vietnam, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and
bringing all of the nations of the world into that United Nations, and thereby disarming
the whole world may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation.
And our early habitat will be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante
could not imagine. And so I say that maybe our world is in dire need of a new organization,
the International Association for the Advancement for Creative Maladjustment. Men
and women who would be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos who in the midst of the
injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, let justice
roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. As maladjusted as Abraham
Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half-slave and
half-free. As maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson when the midst of an age amazingly
adjusted to slavery could scratch across the pages of history words lifted to cosmic
proportions, “We owe these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among
these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus Christ
who could look into the eyes of men and women around Galilean hills and say he who
lives by the sword will perish by the sword. And through such maladjustment we would
be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man,
into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. May I say in conclusion
that in spite of the difficulties ahead, in spite of the fact that we must work hard,
I still have faith in the future. And I still have faith in America because I love
America and I believe that we will continue to build a coalition of conscience that
one day will solve this problem. We sing a little song in our movement and it has
been our guiding faith. Sometimes we’ve been facing hooded perpetrators of violence;
sometimes we face jeering mobs. Sometimes we face dogs and the gushing waters from
fire hoses. Sometimes in crowded jail cells we join hands to sing it. And sometimes
in just open mass meetings. But we could sing it as a hymn of faith. We shall overcome,
we shall overcome, deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome. And somehow I
believe this because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
We shall overcome because Carlyle is right. No lie can live forever. We shall overcome
because William Cullen Bryant is right, truth crushed earth shall rise again. We
shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, truth forever on the scaffold,
wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future. And behind the
dim unknown standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. And so
with this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of
hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our
nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able
to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and
Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words
of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are
free at last.
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