Monday, January 21, 2008

The Arc of the Moral Universe

Perhaps my favorite speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was delivered at the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25, 1965. The speech (the full text is available here) was delivered on the steps of the Alabama state capitol building:
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because "truth crushed to earth will rise again."
How long? Not long, because "no lie can live forever."
How long? Not long, because "you shall reap what you sow."
How long? Not long:
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own.
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
Stanford has a collection of King's most notable speeches. The definitive collection of King's speeches and writings is A Testament of Hope, published by HarperCollins. has new and used copies for sale. If you want to know what he thought, read what he had to say.


Blogger WallingfordFrank said...

For anyone interested, I also recommend a 1967 sermon by King called "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life," (length, breadth and height) which is also available on the Stanford site. I think his discussion of the length of life (not longevity) is particularly thought-provoking.

Good job, as always, Tom.

9:54 AM, January 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following are excerpts from the sermon “We Are Keepers of the Dream” by Rev. Matthew D. Tittle. The words “The long arc of the universe bends toward justice,” which President-elect Barack Obama referred to in his acceptance speech is often attributed to the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The original quote was written by the Unitarian minister Theodore Parker in 1853 and stated:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eyes reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

To recognize a great idea is also worthy of praise. Dr. King certainly deserves praise for much including his appreciation of Rev. Parker's 1853 sermon.

5:17 AM, June 20, 2009  

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