Dr. Martin Luther King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" (1968)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this, his last speech, on April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. On the following day, he was assassinated.

In this speech, King challenges the United States to live up to its ideals, and calls for acts of nonviolent protest against the institutionalized racism. Toward the end of the speech, King references the possibility of his own untimely death.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. nonviolence
    peaceful resistance to a government
    It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence.
  2. sanitation
    the state of being clean and conducive to health
    The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers.
  3. paddy
    an irrigated or flooded field where rice is grown
    And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can.
  4. panoramic
    as from an altitude or distance
    And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?"
  5. injunction
    a judicial remedy to prohibit a party from doing something
    Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we're going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction.
  6. aorta
    the large artery carrying blood from the heart to the body
    And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery.
  7. vacillating
    uncertain in purpose or action
    I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
  8. mace
    a ceremonial staff carried as a symbol of office
    We aren't going to let any mace stop us.
  9. agenda
    a list of matters to be taken up, as at a meeting
    "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."
  10. totalitarian
    of a government with an authority exerting absolute control
    If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions.
  11. grapple
    work hard to come to terms with or deal with something
    And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it.
  12. disarming
    act of reducing or depriving of weapons
    We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don't know what to do.
  13. heyday
    the period of greatest prosperity or productivity
    I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire.
  14. sardine
    small fishes found in great schools along coasts of Europe
    And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can.
  15. longevity
    the property of having lived for a considerable time
    Longevity has its place.
  16. anoint
    administer an oil or ointment to, often ceremonially
    Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me," and he's anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor."
  17. causal
    involving an entity that produces an effect
    Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.
  18. meander
    move or cause to move in a sinuous or circular course
    It's a winding, meandering road.
  19. conducive
    tending to bring about; being partly responsible for
    It's really conducive for ambushing.
  20. collective
    done by or characteristic of individuals acting together
    Never stop and forget that collectively -- that means all of us together -- collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine.
  21. puncture
    pierce with a pointed object; make a hole into
    And once that's punctured, your drowned in your own blood -- that's the end of you.
  22. segregation
    the act of keeping apart
    If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.
  23. proxy
    a person authorized to act for another
    He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy.
  24. parable
    a short moral story
    And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable."
  25. aesthetic
    characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste
    I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man.

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