Monday, January 18, 2010

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. Amazon.com has new and used copies for sale. If you want to know what he thought, read what he had to say.
One reader has traced the saying to the Rev. Theodore Parker, a 19th century Unitarian minister in Massachusetts.
Barack Obama has referred to the phrase several times, including his election night speech in 2008 and this statement on the protests in Iran.

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