As we take time to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr for his efforts and sacrifice, I wanted to share with you my favorite MLK speech. While many will point to his “I Have a Dream” speech from the march on Washington, his last speech “I Have Been To the Mountaintop” is by far my favorite. Dr. King was in town to protest with the sanitation workers to demand equal treatment. Given in Memphis just hours before he died, his words are haunting, prophetic and inspired by God.
In this lengthy speech, MLK goes into specific details about his vision of America. It’s a masterpiece. He speaks on the History of the civil rights movement from the civil war, then lays out a plan moving forward that gave many a path to follow after he was assassinated. He rejects Bull Connor, Democrat, by name, while praising those who stand shoulder to shoulder with him in his fight.
I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”
Bull Connor next would say, “Turn the fire hoses on.” And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.
In the “Dream” speech, we see a young MLK fresh and full of hope. In this speech the hope carries on, but with the darker warnings of reality. King speaks of God’s influence in the 21st century, the change he has seen since that first day in Washington, DC.
Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.
Here we find a battle hardened Martin Luther King Jr, someone who has been deep in the fight. He knows the viciousness of his enemies, and he knows the righteousness of his struggle. Every time I listen to this speech, I am in awe of his wisdom, his grace and his will.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!
Amen, Martin Luther King Jr. Thank you for guiding our country when we needed it most. Thank you for your life and for your sacrifice. Thank you for showing Americans what real freedom looks like. Thank you, Martin Luther King and may you eternally rest in peace.