The Speech, 50 Years On

Listening to it again, it’s actually more impressive for the beauty of its prose than the delivery or the force of the message.

But what seems most striking in hearing it 50 years later is the success King achieved – and the failure his self-appointed successors have tarnished his legacy with.

That’s not quite fair. MLK can’t be held responsible for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He wouldn’t approve of his life’s work being used to enable thugs, to extort money from legitimate business, to foster dependency on government, to stoke the fores of racism he so decried, only under new management.

And he wouldn’t approve of those who spread a poisonous, violent, hypersexualized and unchristian culture in a community (and well beyond that community) he fought and died to lift up.

But those are observations of today. Fifty years ago King gave us poetry, passion and aspiration. We should celebrate it, and celebrate the progress he made.

Martin Luther King, Jr. would come to the South in 2013 and see race relations the quality of which he could only dream of fifty years ago.

Was this even imaginable in 1963? This was the celebration when the Saints – in historically racially-divided New Orleans – won the Super Bowl less than four years ago…

We still have our disagreements. But the fundamental divide in America is no longer race; it’s culture. And while it might seem that culture is even more intractable than race, it isn’t.

Race is immutable. Culture is not. You can choose your culture.

If King was with us now, in body as well as in spirit, we believe he would be fighting on behalf of a culture of virtue that transcends race – as he did back in 1963.

That battle remains to be won. We need worthy successors to King to win it.

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