April 4, 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's historic speech, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." In his dramatic address in Riverside Church at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, Dr. King argued that militarism and war abroad were undermining the struggle against poverty and racism at home.
He witnessed the anti-poverty program being "broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle plaything of a society gone mad on war." He warned that a nation continuously spending more money on the military than on social uplift, "is approaching spiritual death".
This is a powerful message of enduring value. It remains relevant today as our government considers greater American military involvement in the Middle East and the President urges "massively rebuilding" the military while cutting social programs. It is also a reminder of how much our nation has forgotten the lessons of Vietnam and of the anti-war movement and incompletely addressed the humanitarian consequences of that war.
We call on religious organizations, community groups, labor unions, universities, schools, veterans, peace activists and civil rights advocates accross the nation to convene local events on this and future anniversaries.
Let us join together to re-read Dr. King's speech and reflect upon its powerful meaning for today, and let us follow Dr. King in speaking out against racism, poverty and war.