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Martin, Barack and Josiah

To celebrate the combination of Martin Luther King day and the Day Before, here's a quote from the Reverend Doctor M.L.K., Jr., from a speech on April 10, 1957 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Oh, this is a period for leaders. Leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity. Leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.
Oh, Gd give us leaders. A time like this demands
great leaders.
Leaders whom the lust of office does not kill
Leaders whom the spoils of life cannot buy
Leaders who possess opinions and will
Leaders who will not lie
Leaders who can stand before a demagogue
and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking.
Tall leaders, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
in public duty and in private thinking.

And this is the need, my friends, of the hour. This is the need all over the nation. In every community there is a dire need for leaders who will lead the people, who stand today amid the wilderness toward the promised land of freedom and justice. God grant that ministers, and lay leaders, and civic leaders, and businessmen, and professional people all over the nation will rise up and use the talent and the finances that God has given them, and lead the people on toward the promised land of freedom with rational, calm, nonviolent means. This is the great challenge of the hour.

And if we will do this, my friends, we will be able to speed up the coming of this new order, which is destined to come. This new world in which men will be able to live together as brothers. This new world in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of all human personality. This new world, which men will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks. Yes, this new world in which men will no longer take necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. This new world in which men will learn the old principle of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They will hear once more the voice of Jesus crying out through the generations saying, “Love everybody.” This is that world. Then right here in America we will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the Pilgrims pride,
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring.

The quoted poem is Josiah Gilbert Holland's “Wanted”; fairly freely paraphrased. I suspect that Mr. Holland would be somewhat surprised to have found his words in Rev. King's mouth, and in my mind not only today, but tomorrow, when another tall man, sun-crowned, answers our desperate need for leaders, and tells us again that this is that world.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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