Martin Luther King Day has become a rote celebration of the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Which means we must find other King speeches, in order to wake people up to the genius of the man and his words. Next year, quote this speech, brought to our attention by freelance speechwriter Cynthia Starks. It’s from Nov. 17, 1957, and it was delivered at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
“There will come a time,” King says, “in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love.
“In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to this level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”