I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.
Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Martin Luther King in Oslo, Norway. The chairman of the committee, explaining why King deserved the Prize in 1964, proclaimed his significance as
the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.
King donated the $54,000 monetary prize to civil rights groups and when he decided to speak out against the Vietnam war in 1967, he cited the Nobel, requiring him to go ‘‘beyond national allegiances’’ to speak out for peace. We are also reminded that, when leaders speak out against weighty matters, prodding the powers that be, there will inevitability be hostility. Bull Connor, the commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, said that awarding King the Nobel was ‘‘scraping the bottom of the barrel.’’
As long-distance runners for justice, committed to keeping the legacy of King alive through real struggle, let’s take time today and meditate on some highlights from King’s Nobel acceptance speech:
…nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.
…nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.
I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
“And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that we shall overcome!