Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moral obligation to speak

The speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been published broadly since his terrible death. Of course, his most famous speech, "I Have a Dream," occupies its rightful place in the "hall of fame" of American rhetoric.

Yet, other powerful, prophetic addresses by King have been set aside, at least in the popular mind of the nation. This week we celebrate his birth. It seems a good time to recall his controversial address on the war in Vietnam.

King regarded the war as a "war on the poor."

We live in a time of war again today, though most of us have no direct contact with its costs or sacrifices. King's words may not be easy to hear. You may not agree with his analysis or judgment. But the speech needs to be heard and not forgotten.

6 comments:

c hand said...

Why does the president fight this "war on the poor."

Larry James said...

c hand, data from the period of Johnson's Great Society indicate very clearly that the program was having a marked effect on poverty in the nation--a decline note matched since that period. The Vietnam War intervened and "stole" funding from the war on poverty. Thus, King's conclusion about the result of Johnson's decision to escalate the conflict.

Chris said...

A lot of people do not agree that the War on Poverty did any good in the long run, in fact it made poverty worse. Adam Young said the following:

"Only mass production can raise the standard of living for the masses and eliminate poverty. Government can never reduce poverty since it does not produce, but only consumes and squanders wealth. Lyndon Johnson's silly "war" on poverty impoverished those it claimed to help and impoverished all Americans with lost opportunities and lost liberty by weakening and obstructing those institutions that encourage, facilitate and reward productivity and exchange. The war on poverty was in reality a state-sponsored war on the opportunities of the poor and on all Americans."

It encouraged generational welfare, out of wedlock births, and families in which the father was absent. We are reaping the rewards of this "war" today and Obama seems bent on continuing it.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

Ever reliable! And, of course, Adam Young has no agenda whatsoever, but is simply a free thinking perfectly objective soul doing good.

Larry James said...

chris, don't be confused by the facts or the data of the era: Medicare lifted millions of senior citizens out of poverty and prevented millions more from falling into it; the college aid programs and the Civil Rights legislation helped dramatically expand the African American middle class; other examples abound. The failures of the era relate directly to the funding lost by prusuing a highly questionable war. Public housing decisions were made in view of declining funds; public education reeled from white flight, etc. It is not as simple as you believe. And, again, the data shows that the era produced a dramatic decline in the % of Americans who lived in poverty--most of whom were white.

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