Thank you. My two most admired Americans are Jefferson and King. Neither one was a God, but they were heroes in their own way.
Mr. King’s “Dream” speech is drummed into people’s attention. Listen to the Drum Major sermon (text) – not a speech. Or the Beyond Vietnam speech, or All Here and Now. One of the reasons we are in the stagnant mess of today is we did not pay attention to the messages of yesterday.
It is interesting that Maya Angelou was bothered by a quote about “being a drum major” that was inscribed on a memorial to Mr. King. She thought it made King look arrogant, and it was quoted out of context. (link) I think the controversy made Maya Angelou look arrogant, not King – in trying to preserve his image beyond what he himself would have hoped.
King, like many humanists, felt that the arrogant fools whom we ALL are, can somehow, mystically, achieve what is beyond our individual flaws. He offers an example in that “Drum Major” sermon, that you wouldn’t hear from a pompous man:
I got a letter the other day, and it was a new magazine coming out. And it opened up, “Dear Dr. King: As you know, you are on many mailing lists. And you are categorized as highly intelligent, progressive, a lover of the arts and the sciences, and I know you will want to read what I have to say.” Of course I did. After you said all of that and explained me so exactly, of course I wanted to read it. [laughter]
Was he ever wrong, pompous, mean, dishonest, petty and hurtful? I cannot cite examples, but he was human, and our type is predisposed to such behavior now and again. He had less than forty years to live his life – we have had fifty years to study him after his death. If I were to be judged for whom I was at forty – would I pass the judgment?
The question is whether we made our world better for having been here. The question is if he gave us pause, gave us thoughts and understandings that reached far beyond our own limited insights; gave us ideas that may take us many years to attain. I think of his humanism as I do think of Martin Buber‘s.
Thanks, Dr. King.