“…I’ve Seen The Promised Land” (Repost)

I collect great speeches. I’ve got a whole slew of big ones; Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” and the “Dunkirk” speech, Reagan’s “Shining City” and “A Time for Choosing” and the Brandenburg Gate speech, Kennedy’s “To The Moon!” and his Little Rock speech, “I Have A Dream”…

…and about a year ago, I finally got a copy of Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been To The Mountain“, made the day before he was assassinated. And while I’ve been hearing about the speech for decades, it’s amazing to listen to. Some speeches inspire you; some make you angry; “I’ve Been To The Mountain” is a little of everything, but also draining. It is almost emotionally exhausting to listen to.

But it’s worth a listen; it’s one of the greatest speeches in American history.

It ends with an account of a near-death experience when a woman tried to stab him, years ago in New York.   

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”
And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream. And taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, been in Memphis to see the community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.
And they were telling me, now it doesn’t matter now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”
And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it 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 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”

The whole thing is very much worth a listen.

This post originally published on MLK Day 2010.

4 thoughts on ““…I’ve Seen The Promised Land” (Repost)

  1. I heard something the other day that seems apropos given the holiday — that the language used by champions of civil rights today is closer to David Duke than it is to MLK.
    By this it is meant that today’s champions of civil rights believe that your rights are dependent on your race/ethnicity/sex, and are politically determined.
    I think that I heard it on this podcast, https://ricochet.com/podcast/powerline/equality-and-its-discontents/, a recording of one of Steve Hayward’s Yale lectures.

  2. I’m part of the last generation who knows America BK and AK. Kids growing up today aren’t taught history the way it actually happened, but the way textbook writers claim it happened. They are merely Told. I actually Remember.

    Before King, in certain parts of the nation, there were official government restriction on Black opportunities for education, work, even something as simple as eating lunch. AK, there are not. King accomplished his goal – everybody has equal opportunity. A Black man truly can grow up to be President.

    That’s why it hurts so much to see the Left steal his name to justify their wickedness. Instead of Equal Opportunity regardless of race, the Left wants Equal Outcome measured by race. Instead of judging people by the content of their character, the Left wants to avoid judging People Whose Lives Matter despite the defects of their character.

    Black kids go to the same school as White kids, but Black culture discourages them from studying in that school, lest they be accused of ‘acting White.’ Yet when Black kids fail to achieve the same academic results as White kids, Black culture blames Whites for racism and slavery and lack of opportunity. Opportunity isn’t lacking, it’s wasted, and that’s an disgraceful way to treat MLKs legacy.

  3. For an interesting juxtaposition, listen to King dream about the day skin color is irrelevant while watching video clips of the Congressional Black Caucus.

  4. If he *had* sneezed when James Earl Ray took the shot, he might have been around to change the direction his legacy has taken in Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore etc.

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