Martin Luther King Jr. Visited SMU in 1966

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in SMU's McFarlin Auditorium on March 17, 1966. Following are excerpts from that speech.

  • After the Birmingham movement in 1963, and the brutality of Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses, President Kennedy stood before the nation and said the problem of civil rights is not merely a political issue, not merely an economic issue, it is at bottom a moral issue, and it is as old as the scriptures and as modern as the Constitution. And on the heels of that speech to the nation, President Kennedy submitted to Congress the most comprehensive civil rights package ever presented by any president of our nation. Congress debated the issue for several months; finally that bill was passed, signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964. The civil rights bill is now the law of the land.
  • I guess probably more than any other question, the one I get over and over again as I journey around our nation, is the question of whether we are making any real progress in race relations. It is a poignant and desperate question on the lips of thousands and millions of people all over this nation. And I guess the only answer I can give to that question is what I consider a realistic one. It avoids the extremes of a deadening pessimism and superficial optimism. I would say that we have come a long, long way in our struggle to make justice a reality for all men but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved. And it is this realistic position that I would like to use as a basis for our thinking together this afternoon. As we think of the future of integration and as we think of progress in race relations, we have come a long, long way but we still have a long, long way to go.
  • In the final analysis, racial injustice must be uprooted from American society because it is morally wrong. We must solve this problem not merely because it is diplomatically expedient, but because it is morally compelling. We must solve this problem because it is sinful to segregate any of God’s children and to trample over them with the iron feet of oppression. And so the challenge in the days ahead is to work passionately and unrelentingly for the solution to the problem and to go that additional distance necessary to make justice a reality for all people.
  • Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless effort and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation and irrational emotionalism. We must have time and we must realize that the time is always right to do right.
  • …It is possible to work to secure moral ends through moral means. One of the great debates of history has been on the whole question of ends and means. And there have been those who argued that the end justifies the means…We recognize that the end is pre-existent in the means. The means represents the ideal in the end in process. And in the long run of history, destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends. And so if one is working for a just society, he should use just methods in bringing about that society.
  • …Be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.
  • And we will help those of us who have been on the oppressed end of the old order to go into the new order with the right attitude, not with bitterness, not with the desire to retaliate, not with the desire to get even with those who have inflicted injustice upon us for all of these years, but with the desire to forgive and forget and to move on to a moral balance.
  • And so there is a need to stand up, there is a need for all people of goodwill in this nation to become involved participants, for all too long we have had silent onlookers. But now there must be more involved participants to solve this problem and get rid of this one huge wrong of our nation. And there must be a kind of divine discontent.
  • But I must honestly say that there are some things in our nation and the world of which I’m proud to be maladjusted, which I hope all men of goodwill will be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry.
  • And so the plea facing us today is to move on that additional distance that we have to go with understanding, with the concern for brotherhood, with the removal of all prejudices, with an understanding that all of God’s children are significant.
  • Our goal is freedom and somehow our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America, and I believe that we are going to get to that goal of freedom because the goal of America is freedom.



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