As I delivered it on August 24, 2013, at Lincoln Memorial on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Texts excerpted and truncated from RFK, JFK and MLK speeches.
The day after Dr. King died...
Robert Kennedy spoke on the "mindless menace of violence."
Here are his words (excerpted):
What has violence accomplished? What has it created?
We tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity.
We glorify killing on movie screens and call it entertainment.
We make it easy for men to acquire weapons.
We honor swagger and wielders of force.
We excuse those who are willing to build their lives on the shattered dreams of others.
But there is another kind of violence, just as deadly.
This is the violence of institutions, indifference, and inaction.
President Kennedy was equally unequivocal:
The pursuit of peace, is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war.
But we have no more urgent task.
Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.
But the kind of peace that makes life worth living.
Too many of us think it is impossible.
"That is a dangerous, defeatist belief," said the President.
Dr. King called America the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
He was right. And it is still today.
When profit motives 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 look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.
A true revolution will say of war: This way of settling differences is not just.
America can lead the way in this revolution of values.
We are called to speak for the voiceless,
For victims of our nation, and
For those it calls 'enemy'.
For no document can make these humans any less our brothers.
The true meaning of compassion and nonviolence is when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view.
And there is nothing to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities.
So the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
Let us now practice what RFK, JFK, and MLK so eloquently preached.
There is no more urgent task.