This Day in History

April 4, 1967: Martin Luther King Jr. Delivers “Beyond Vietnam” Speech

Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Economics, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain …

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world. —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech in New York City at Riverside Church on the occasion of his becoming co-chairperson of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam (subsequently renamed Clergy and Laity Concerned).

Dr. King in a March 25, 1967 antiwar march in Chicago.

Titled “Beyond Vietnam,” it was his first major speech on the war in Vietnam—what the Vietnamese aptly call the American War.

King linked the escalating U.S. commitment to that war with its abandonment of the commitment to social justice at home.

His call for a “shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society” and for us to “struggle for a new world” has acquired even greater urgency than when he issued it decades ago.

Read more from the lesson A Revolution of Values. Read and listen to the Beyond Vietnam speech.