Above is A Time to Break Silence, a speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave exactly one year before his death. It's long, focuses in part on details of the Vietnam War and less well-known than some of his other oratorical masterpieces. I posted this (albeit with less complete video) last year too, and will probably post it again in 2011 too.
So why this speech in particular, and not I have a Dream?
For one, it represents a side of him not seen in much of the popular narrative. King connected his fight against racism to a much larger struggle for justice. Too often, in popular representation King is a figure who played a decisive role in winning a conflict long gone and can now safely recede into the national pantheon to look down in wisdom upon America.
That needs to be shaken up, the struggle is not over, and King stood for a lot more than just the specific civil rights battles of the day. His words about "the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism" make a much larger — and for many, still uncomfortable — point.
Then there's this:
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood -- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.