Dr. King’s words of hope continue to inspire today

By Harold Gaines, Argonne African American Black Club President

Today, on the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I would like to share with you an excerpt from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from 1964. Dr. King shared his thoughts and vision with the international community at a tumultuous, expectant and hope-filled time in our nation’s history. His words and his peaceful dream for our nation continue to have relevance today. I hope his message inspires you as it continues to inspire me each day.

“After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive…is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts…I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history…I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men…I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up…I still believe that we shall overcome…I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally. Every time I take a flight, I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible – the known pilots and the unknown ground crew… I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., excerpt from his acceptance speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1964.

Dr. King’s full acceptance speech is available on the Nobel Prize website.