Since 1865, when it was founded by Northern abolitionists, The Nation has always believed in the liberating power of truth, of conviction, of conscience, and of fighting for causes lost and found. And like our founders, the magazine has an abiding belief that there is no force so potent in politics as a moral issue.
One of the great moral figures of our country’s history, Martin Luther King Jr. was a correspondent for The Nation–traveling the South in the early 1960s and filing annual dispatches for the magazine on the state of civil rights. In 1967, Dr. King traveled to Los Angeles under the auspices of The Nation and The Nation Institute to give the speech that would align the armies of the Civil Rights Movement with the rapidly expanding national protest against the Vietnam War. It was at this gathering, before an overflow crowd at the Beverly Hills Hilton on February 25, that Dr. King first came out, courageously, eloquently and unequivocally , against the war. Two months later, on April 4th, King delivered his famous antiwar sermon at Riverside Church in New York City.
Today we are again mired in an intractable and monstrous war overseas. It is a moment to listen to Dr. King’s words about the broader casualties of another war–casualties that go beyond the carnage of battle to the devastating costs of war at home–the damage to social justice and racial equality, and the unbearable cost to free speech and dissent.
In these few excerpts from his remarkable speech, Dr. King painted a picture of a society that looks remarkably, starkly, like the one we live in today.
“….This confused war has played havoc with our domestic destinies, despite feeble protestations to the contrary. And promises of Great Society have been shut down on the battlefields of Vietnam in pursuit of this widened war which has narrowed domestic welfare programs, making the poor white and Negro bear the heaviest burdens at the front and at home. While the anti-poverty program is cautiously initiated, zealously supervised and evaluated for immediate results, billions are liberally expended for this ill-considered war. Recently revealed mis-estimates of the war budget amount to $10 billion for the single year. This error alone is more than five times the amount committed to antipoverty programs. The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures we will lose in our decaying cities. The bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America. If we reversed investments and gave the armed forces the anti-poverty budget, the generals could be forgiven if they walked off the battlefield in disgust.”