King's other speech, "The Other America"

Jan 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964
Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Today, there are two speeches on everyone's minds: the speech that President Obama delivered on the steps of the Capitol, and the famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. 

But there is another speech I have in mind on this MLK day, and it reminds us both of King's legacy and of the work that is left to do, for President Obama, for us and for our future. 

In 1967, King delivered a speech at Stanford University on "The Other America." It is a speech he gave more than once. One version was given at Grosse Point High School, in Grosse Point, Mich, less than a month before his assassination. 

It's actually not that easy to find this speech online. The text is available, but I found only one place where you can watch King actually speak the words. You can do that here, but you'll have to skip ahead to 3:53 to get to King. 

There's one part of the speech I'd like to highlight. It comes after King acknowledged the years of struggle during the Civil Rights movement. 

Many things were gained as a result of these years of struggle. In 1964 the Civil Rights Bill came into being after the Birmingham movement which did a great deal to subpoena the conscience of a large segment of the nation to appear before the judgment seat of morality on the whole question of Civil Rights. After the Selma movement in 1965 we were able to get a Voting Rights Bill. And all of these things represented strides. 

But we must see that the struggle today is much more difficult. It's more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. It's much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It's much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality. 

Nearly 46 years later, we are still struggling.