Monday, January 19, 2009

Speaking of Socialism...

Here are some lesser quoted words from Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech (a title I think poorly describes the message of the speech). He was also a registered Democratic Socialist Party member, along with many other people this country holds in high regard.

*UPDATE: MLK, Jr. was NOT a 'registered' democratic socialist, but there is much to justify calling him an 'unregistered' one.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.


Adam said...

Sam -

There's no such thing now, nor was there then as the Democratic Socialist Party. King most certainly ascribed to some socialist positions (best described as Christian socialism, a tradition that many prominent American Socialists, party members or not, belonged to).

samrocha said...

Adam: You're wrong. I voted for their candidate as recently as this past November, Brian Moore. Also notable was John Dewey and many of the early progressives were members too.

angcopp said...

very interesting, thanks!

Adam said...

Brian Moore was a candidate of the Socialist Party USA, not the Democratic Socialist Party.

samrocha said...

Well then, I see you win on a phrasing quibble. Good for you. By the way the Socialist Party USA advocates democratic socialism.