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|The following are faithful paraphrases of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg
Address, The 23rd Psalm of David, John Kennedy's acceptance
speech of the Democratic Party Presidential nomination, Martin Luther King's
"I Have a Dream Speech," the Declaration of Independence of the United
States, and Patrick Henry's famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech.
The paraphrases preserve the meaning but lose all the power and beauty
of the passages, because they lack the poetry and style in them.
This is no small matter because, as you will see, the meaning alone, devoid of passion, emotion, and moral nuance, does not always convey the moral imperative, the emotional importance, or the transcendent significance of what is being said.
There is a difference between merely saying something and saying it well. This web page is intended to show students the difference and to encourage them by example to write with a more commanding style, and with more attention to linguistic connotations and conceptual distinctions, in those cases of speaking and writing where such a style would be appropriate.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished
work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is
rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.
. .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause
for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this
nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government
of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish
from the earth.
But the current revolt questions the viability of a nation with such a basis. We are standing on one of the larger battlefields of this war for the purpose of designating part of it as a cemetery for those who died here trying to preserve the republic.
That is the right thing to do, of course, but in the big scheme of things, there isn't much we can do to make this ground any more sacred or important than the brave soldiers who fought here did. Their activities will be remembered longer than this ceremony will. So what we really need to do is to work hard to finish what they so magnificently started in order that their efforts will not have been wasted ... renewing the principle of freedom and perpetuating the existence of the people's republic.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
He gives me fertile land and water.
He helps me relax and think; he shows me how to behave so I don't cause him trouble or give him a bad name.
Even in scary and risky circumstances I won't be afraid, for God is on my side and the big sticks He carries give me a good feeling of security.
He provides food for me even in dangerous circumstances; he rubs lotion on my scalp and forehead; I have more of all good things than I need.
I am certain to have a great future as a guest in God's place.
the Nomination of the Democratic Party
For the Presidency
I accept it with a full and grateful heart--without reservation-- and with only one obligation--the obligation to devote every effort of body, mind and spirit to lead our Party back to victory and our Nation back to greatness.
I am grateful, too, that you have provided me with such an eloquent statement of our Party's platform. Pledges which are made so eloquently are made to be kept. "The Rights of Man"--the civil and economic rights essential to the human dignity of all men--are indeed our goal and our first principles. This is a Platform on which I can run with enthusiasm and conviction.
And I am grateful, finally, that I can rely in the coming months on so many others--on a distinguished running-mate who brings unity to our ticket and strength to our Platform, Lyndon Johnson--on one of the most articulate statesmen of our time, Adlai Stevenson--on a great spokesman for our needs as a Nation and a people, Stuart Symington--and on that fighting campaigner whose support I welcome, President Harry S. Truman-- on my traveling companion in Wisconsin and West Virginia, Senator Hubert Humphrey. On Paul Butler, our devoted and courageous Chairman.
I feel a lot safer now that they are on my side again. And I am proud of the contrast with our Republican competitors. For their ranks are apparently so thin that not one challenger has come forth with both the competence and the courage to make theirs an open convention.
I am fully aware of the fact that the Democratic Party, by nominating someone of my faith, has taken on what many regard as a new and hazardous risk--new, at least since 1928. But I look at it this way: the Democratic Party has once again placed its confidence in the American people, and in their ability to render a free, fair judgment. And you have, at the same time, placed your confidence in me, and in my ability to render a free, fair judgment--to uphold the Constitution and my oath of office--and to reject any kind of religious pressure or obligation that might directly or indirectly interfere with my conduct of the Presidency in the national interest. My record of fourteen years supporting public education--supporting complete separation of church and state--and resisting pressure from any source on any issue should be clear by now to everyone.
I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant. I want to stress, what some other political or religious leader may have said on this subject. It is not relevant what abuses may have existed in other countries or in other times. It is not relevant what pressures, if any, might conceivably be brought to bear on me. I am telling you now what you are entitled to know: that my decisions on any public policy will be my own--as an American, a Democrat and a free man.
Under any circumstances, however, the victory we seek in November will not be easy. We all know that in our hearts. We recognize the power of the forces that will be aligned against us. We know they will invoke the name of Abraham Lincoln on behalf of their candidate--despite the fact that the political career of their candidate has often seemed to show charity toward none and malice for all.
We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue. Mr. Nixon may feel it is his turn now, after the New Deal and the Fair Deal--but before he deals, someone had better cut the cards.
That "someone" may be the millions of Americans who voted for President Eisenhower but balk at his would be, self-appointed successor. For just as historians tell us that Richard I was not fit to fill the shoes of bold Henry II--and that Richard Cromwell was not fit to wear the mantle of his uncle--they might add in future years that Richard Nixon did not measure to the footsteps of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Perhaps he could carry on the party policies--the policies of Nixon, Benson, Dirksen and Goldwater. But this Nation cannot afford such a luxury. Perhaps we could better afford a Coolidge following Harding. And perhaps we could afford a Pierce following Fillmore. But after Buchanan this nation needed a Lincoln--after Taft we needed a Wilson-- after Hoover we needed Franklin Roosevelt. . . . And after eight years of drugged and fitful sleep, this nation needs strong, creative Democratic leadership in the White House.
But we are not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm will know how to vote without our telling them. The unemployed miners and textile workers will know how to vote. The old people without medical care--the families without a decent home--the parents of children without adequate food or schools--they all know that it's time for a change.
But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high--to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.
Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.
Abroad, the balance of power is shifting. There are new and more terrible weapons--new and uncertain nations--new pressures of population and deprivation. One-third of the world, it has been said, may be free- -but one-third is the victim of cruel repression--and the other one- third is rocked by the pangs of poverty, hunger and envy. More energy is released by the awakening of these new nations than by the fission of the atom itself.
Meanwhile, Communist influence has penetrated further into Asia, stood astride the Middle East and now festers some ninety miles off the coast of Florida. Friends have slipped into neutrality--and neutrals into hostility. As our keynoter reminded us, the President who began his career by going to Korea ends it by staying away from Japan.
The world has been close to war before--but now man, who has survived all previous threats to his existence, has taken into his mortal hands the power to exterminate the entire species some seven times over. Here at home, the changing face of the future is equally revolutionary. The New Deal and the Fair Deal were bold measures for their generations--but this is a new generation.
A technological revolution on the farm has led to an output explosion--but we have not yet learned to harness that explosion usefully, while protecting our farmers' right to full parity income.
An urban population explosion has overcrowded our schools, cluttered up our suburbs, and increased the squalor of our slums.
A peaceful revolution for human rights--demanding an end to racial discrimination in all parts of our community life--has strained at the leashes imposed by timid executive leadership.
A medical revolution has extended the life of our elder citizens without providing the dignity and security those later years deserve. And a revolution of automation finds machines replacing men in the mines and mills of America, without replacing their incomes or their training or their needs to pay the family doctor, grocer and landlord.
There has also been a change--a slippage--in our intellectual and moral strength. Seven lean years of drouth and famine have withered a field of ideas. Blight has descended on our regulatory agencies--and a dry rot, beginning in Washington, is seeping into every corner of America--in the payola mentality, the expense account way of life, the confusion between what is legal and what is right. Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose.
It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership--new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.
All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power--men who are not bound by the traditions of the past--men who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries-- young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.
The Republican nominee-to-be, of course, is also a young man. But his approach is as old as McKinley. His party is the party of the past. His speeches are generalities from Poor Richard's Almanac. Their platform, made up of left-over Democratic planks, has the courage of our old convictions. Their pledge is a pledge to the status quo--and today there can be no status quo.
For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not "every man for himself"--but "all for the common cause." They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.
Today some would say that those struggles are all over--that all the horizons have been explored--that all the battles have been won-- that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won--and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier--the frontier of the 1960's--a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils-- a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.
Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal promised security and succor to those in need. But the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises--it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook--it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.
But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric--and those who prefer that course should not cast their votes for me, regardless of party.
But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age--to all who respond to the Scriptural call: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed."
For courage--not complacency--is our need today--leadership--not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. A tired nation, said David Lloyd George, is a Tory nation--and the United States today cannot afford to be either tired or Tory.
There may be those who wish to hear more--more promises to this group or that--more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin--more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high. But my promises are in the platform you have adopted--our ends will not be won by rhetoric and we can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves.
For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation--or any nation so conceived--can long endure--whether our society--with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives--can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system.
Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction--but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men's minds?
Are we up to the task--are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future--or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present? That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make--a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort--between national greatness and national decline--between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of "normalcy"--between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity.
All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.
It has been a long road from that first snowy day in New Hampshire to this crowded convention city. Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America. Give me your help, your hand, your voice, your vote. Recall with me the words of Isaiah: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary."
As we face the coming challenge, we too, shall wait upon the Lord, and ask that he renew our strength. Then shall we be equal to the test. Then we shall not be weary. And then we shall prevail.
Democratic Party For the Presidency
And I am glad Lyndon Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, Stuart Symington, President Truman, Senator Hubert Humphrey, and party chairman Paul Butler will be helping me run. They are articulate and energetic campaigners who also bring unity to the cause.
It is good to have them on my side, because the Republicans aren't going to have a convention anything like ours or people like these.
I know that nominating a Catholic for the first time since the 1928 loss is risky, but it seems to me that Democrats think sufficient Americans might overlook religion this time, because you trust me not to let my religion dictate my Presidential duties. For fourteen years I have clearly and obviously supported public and not parochial schools, and I have recognized the separation of church and state, and not let religious pressure influence me on any issue.
Since there are important real issues in this election, I hope nobody will vote just based on religion. The fact that some people and some countries cannot distinguish between religion and secular governance doesn't mean I won't. I will. I intend not to let religion have anything to do with my official duties.
However, even without the religious issue, winning this election will not be easy because the Republicans will harken back to Lincoln on behalf of their candidate even though he seems to have done the opposite of what Lincoln stood for.
And it is hard to campaign against someone who has never taken a consistent stand or voting record on any issue. Mr. Nixon would like to succeed Presidents Roosevelt and Truman (and Eisenhower), but someone needs to protect against that.
That "someone" will probably be the people who voted for President Eisenhower but who see that Nixon is no Eisenhower, and would be a poor successor to him as many such lieutenants have been failed successors in the past to good leaders.
Republicans can succeed Republicans when it doesn't matter, but there have been times it mattered, and this is one of them.
But we need to do more than just show the short-comings of the Republicans; all the people who have been victimized during this administration know what those are. We have to make sure they know we will not be just as bad or worse and that we have better plans for dealing with the changing balance of power in the world, weapons of mass destruction, out of control population growth, poverty, and repression in the Third World.
And Communism is spreading everywhere, even close to Florida.
A war these days could wipe out mankind.
And while farmers grow far more crops than they ever did, we haven't figured out yet how that can actually help their income.
Schools and cities are becoming overcrowded and dirty.
Racial discrimination still exists even though some people are trying to change that peacefully but they are not getting help from government leaders.
Medicine lets people live longer but we have not yet figured out how to economically and physically let them live decently as they get older.
Morality and intellect are in decline, from government on down. Americans are forgetting what they stand for.
It is time for new, energetic, youthful leadership not bound by stodgy old ways.
The Republican candidate is young, but he is bound to really stodgy old ways and to not changing anything.
This was once our latest wilderness. From 3,000 miles east, long ago, the original settlers accepted danger and discomfort, sometimes even loss of life, to start over again here. They were confident and didn't care about money. They had a common cause instead of individual pursuits. They wanted to prevail over the difficulties and be free from all problems.
Some contemporaries of ours would say those days are long over and there is not anything like that to do any more. But I would bet none of you in this big crowd agrees with that, and I would bet all of you think instead that we are all still pioneers, pioneers in regard to the hopes and dangers of our coming decade.
Woodrow Wilson's proposed program was about a change in politics and economics. Franklin Roosevelt's program proposed security and assistance to the needy. But I propose to challenge you and ask you for sacrifice rather than to bribe you with financial gains and safety.
And we are going to have to do this, whether we want to or not. We know very little about science and space, about how to achieve peace, educate bigots and ignorant people. We don't understand economic distribution very well. It would be easier to ignore all this and think about more pleasant things, but if that is what you want to do, then don't vote for me, whoever you are.
I think young and old alike need to be brave and creative, not just satisfied with being sold a bill of goods. We need to show some energy and enthusiasm.
Some of you may want to hear promises for your special interest groups or fairy tales about a wealth of future profits or you may want me to excoriate the Communists in Russia, but I am just going to follow the platform you voted for because talk won't get us anywhere, and confidence comes from trusting ourselves.
Even though it is unpleasant to think about, we have to set a course one way or the other, and we have to show everybody that a country like ours, with lots of choices and no real discipline, can still compete against hard-working Communists with a common goal.
Can we survive like this? Or are we afraid and unmotivated? Can we keep going, past new deadly inventions and in face of competition to control the weather, space, the oceans, and people's thoughts.
Are we prepared? Will we work as hard as the Russians or are we going to just have a good time now even if that makes us less well off in the future. That is a choice everyone is going to have to make. Everyone is going to have to choose between themselves and others, between making change or keeping the status quo, between being great or deteriorating or just being ordinary.
Everybody in the world wants to know what we are going to do, so we have to do something to keep them from being disappointed.
This election campaign has gone on a long time
and it has a long way yet to go. Hang in there with me and help me out.
Think about what Isaiah said - that those who serve God will not get tired
-- so we need to serve God and we will then have the energy to win this
"I Have a Dream" Speech
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that
all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down
together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert
state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed
into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and
every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed
up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and
Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing
in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank
God Almighty, we are free at last!"
"I Have a Dream" Speech (1 additional comment)
But now, sadly, we have to see that the Negro isn't free yet. Negroes still are handicapped by segregation and discrimination. They are still poor even though others are pretty well off. Negroes are outcasts in the country where they live. And we are here today to make that point.
We are meeting in Washington D.C. to collect on the promise of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness made by the founders of this country to everyone.
America has, however, backed out of this promise to non-whites. But we think they have the means to keep their promise and that they will be fair. So we are asking for freedom and justice now, because it is really important now, and we are here reminding people of their ancestors' promises.
This is the time to seek payment - full payment. Segregation needs to give way to justice, opportunity, and camaraderie -- now.
The vital importance of this moment and the determination of the Negro should not be missed by anyone. Negro discontent will remain until he has freedom and equality. This is just the beginning of the quest to get what we have been promised. It would be a bad mistake to think the Negro is just venting his frustrations here and then going back to the status quo feeling better even if nothing changes. Calm will not return until the Negro has received the rights of his citizenship. Revolt will shake the nation until there is justice.
But there is something I feel obligated to tell those who are seeking justice with me. We must behave correctly while seeking our rights. We want to avoid becoming bitter and hateful while trying to achieve our freedom.
We must be dignified and disciplined at all times in this endeavor, and not permit our protests to degenerate into violence. We must at all times rise above the use of physical force and meet any we encounter with sheer willpower. Just because we are being militant for the first time does not mean we should be distrustful of all white people. Many of them are here today because they realize our futures are linked together and that if we are all going to be free we have to work together.
We also must promise to keep marching ahead on a daily basis, not just now. There is no turning back. Some people ask those concerned about civil rights what it will take to satisfy them. The answer is when we can have hotel rooms when we travel, when we can live outside ghettoes, when Negroes in Mississippi can vote, and when Negroes in New York have something to vote for. We will only be satisfied when there is justice and righteousness.
I realize some of you have come here from difficult places. Some of you have suffered persecution and even police brutality. Your suffering will bring about changes, and you have to realize that undeserved suffering has redemptive powers.
Return to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, and to the inner cities of the North, understanding that somehow things will be rectified. Don't give up or dwell in self-pity.
For I can still say that in spite of all the frustrating problems I maintain the American dream.
I hope and believe that some day this country will actually practice what it preaches when it says that all men are created equal.
I hope and trust that in Georgia the descendants of slaves and of slaveowners alike will be able to be good friends.
I hope and trust that one day even Mississippi will become free and just.
I hope and trust that my own kids will some day be judged by their ability instead of their skin color.
I think about these things today.
I also hope and trust that some day Alabama will be a place where black kids and white kids can play together as good friends, even though currently their governor is adamantly opposed to any changes that might make life better and fairer for Negroes.
I think about this today.
I hope and trust that some day things will be smoother, straighter, and on a more even keel, and that everyone will be able to see the glory of God at the same time.
This is what I hope, and the faith I take back to the South with me. With this desire and trust we will be able to carve out some hope and also convert discord into harmony. With them, we will also be able to work, pray, and struggle, even go to jail, together in order to stand up for freedom which we know will come.
When it does come, all children will be able to sing the words of "My country 'tis of thee" with renewed meaning.
And this will have to come to pass if America is to be a great nation. So let there be freedom in New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as all the way west to Colorado and California, and south to Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
When we have freedom in all these places and everywhere else, everyone no matter what their color or religion will be able to sing together the old Negro religious song that gives praise and thanks for finally being free.
of the United States of America
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That
secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their
just powers from the consent of the governed,
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure
of their offices, and the amount and
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America,
in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world
for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority
of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That
these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent
States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,
and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain,
is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent
States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances,
establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent
States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a
firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge
to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
of the United States of America
The following are obvious: that everyone is born and starts off equal, and that everyone has certain rights they never relinquish, some of which are life, freedom, and trying to be happy. -- That to protect these rights, people institute and maintain control over governments. -- That whenever such governments become counterproductive to the purpose for which they were created, the citizens have a right to change or get rid of the government and start a new one in order to try to better do the job of providing safety and happiness.
Now, of course, it is only reasonable not to change, on the basis of whim or temporary problems, governments that have been around a long time; and historically people have pretty much preferred to suffer through some difficult times with their governments, when they feel they can endure it, rather than start over again with something new. But when the government repeatedly does various things in order to repress the rights of ordinary citizens, everyone can, and should, cancel this government and start a new one that can do the job right. -- The Colonies have tried to put up with the current government, but it is now to the point where they are forced to have to get rid of it. The current king of Great Britain has done enough harm in trying to become an absolute dictator over them. For example:
He won't allow the beneficial laws they need and want.
He won't even allow his own administrators to pass really important laws until he gives his permission, and when his permission is sought, he never gets around even to responding.
He won't even pass laws lots of people want unless they give up their priceless rght of governmental representation -- a right only tyrants worry about people having.
He has made it so difficult for legislatures even to convene that by the time they do, they are so tired they are willing to pass whatever he wants.
He gets rid of legislators who stand up to him when he treats people unfairly and criminally.
Then, when he does that, he doesn't even allow new elections, thus effectively eliminating the government altogether that people need to protect themselves against external threats and internal chaos.
He has tried to keep populations small by impeding immigration, naturalization, and land distribution.
He has impeded justice by not allowing the establishment of a proper judicial system.
He has made judges beholden to his whim and favor for their appointments, their continuing employment, and their incomes and paychecks.
He has authorized a zillion positions and sent bureaucrats to fill them and make our lives miserable.
He has kept standing armies among us during peace time without the consent of our officials.
He has tried to place the military above the civil authority.
He has tried to make us subject to an unconstitutionally recognized authority and agreed to their laws:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For nullifying their murders in sham trials:
For blocking our foreign trade:
For imposing taxes without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases jury trials:
For taking us to foreign countries to stand trial on trumped up charges:
For capriciously replacing the government of a neighboring land as an example of what could happen to us:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our valuable laws, and changing the forms of government in fundamental ways:
For suspending our legislatures and saying they are the replacement:
He has declared us no longer under his protection and has even waged war against us.
He has stolen from our ships and from our shores; he has burnt our towns and ruined people's lives.
He is even now sending large mercenary armies to do even more barbaric things to us.
He has kidnapped our citizens at sea and forced them to bear arms against us, and to execute their friends and relatives, and even themselves.
He has stirred up rebellions among us and tried to get the barbaric Indians on our frontiers to destroy us.
We have asked him nicely each time he has done one of these things to reverse it, but his answer was to do even worse. He should not be the leader of a democratic country.
The British people have not interceded with their leaders on our behalf either, even though we have told them what is going on and appealed to them for help and fairness. So we must hold them accountable for how we are treated also.
Thus, we, as elected representatives of the United
States of America, do what is the right thing, and officially declare ourselves
separate from Great Britain in order to be a free and independent country
altogether, with all the rights and responsiblities of every other nation.
And we intend to do everything in our collective power to fulfill this
Or Give Me Death" Speech
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?
No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.
The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Me Liberty Or Give Me Death" Speech
I most highly respect the patriotism and abilities of the gentlemen who spoke before me, but I disagree with them on this subject, and I hope it will not offend them if I express my own views candidly. This is no time to mince words out of politeness. The issue before us is crucial for our country. I think it is a question of freedom or slavery for us, and the free speech in the debate ought to be as great as the importance of the topic. That is the only way to get to the truth, and fulfill our grave responsibility. To hold back my honest views at this time just to be polite would be treasonable to my country and disloyal to God, whom I most revere.
Mr. President, people understandably have illusions of hope. It is easy to repress unwelcome truth, and to act without reason. Would that be a wise action for people fighting for freedom? Should we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to something of so much importance? I myself prefer to know the truth, even if it is bad news, so that I might deal with it.
I have only experience to go on. I judge the future only by the past, and, given that, I have to ask what the British government has done for the past ten years that gives anyone here the optimism they have expressed. Is it the insidious smile they most recently gave when we presented our grievances? You cannot trust their smile. Don't let yourself be betrayed by apparent affection. Ask yourselves how such apparent friendship squares with the warlike preparations going on everywhere around here. Does the British government need armies and navies to show us their love? Do they think we hate them so much that only force would win us back? We should not be fooled for a minute. These are the instruments only of war and conquest, which kings resort to when they can think of nothing else to say. Why are they assembling all this firepower if they don't mean to force us to accept their domination? Can there be any other reason for it? Is there any other country around here at all that they would need such a military buildup to fight?
Of course not. They are obviously meant to be used against us. They are meant to conclude what the British government has so long been working toward. And what will we fight them with? Reasoning? We have been trying that for the last decade. Is there anything we could say that we have not already said? There isn't. We have examined every position we might take, and it has all been a waste of time. Shall we simply plead and beg? In what ways haven't we done that already? We shouldn't kid ourselves. We have done everything we can to avoid the impending war. We have explained; we have argued; we have pleaded; we have begged the king, and have fervently sought him to stop his administrators and Parliament. He has either ignored us or purposely made things worse. They thumb their noses at us. So it is pointless to hope for peace and reconciliation. It would be folly. If we want to be free and get those priceless thing we have sought for so long -- if we do not intend to throw in the towel and turn tail in the struggle which we said we would stay in till we won -- we must fight. I'll say it again, we must fight. All we have left is war and trust in God.
Of course they tell us that we are weak; too weak for such an opponent. But when would we be stronger? Next week or next year? Will it be after they have taken all our weapons and stationed a British soldier in every house? Will we become stronger by being indecisive and doing nothing? Will we be better able to fight if we simply lie down and hope, while they tie us up? We would not be weak if we made use of the means we have from nature. Our vast population, fighting for freedom, in a country like this could beat anyone who comes against us. And anyway, we will not be alone. God will be just and get friendly nations to help us.
War is not only for the strong, but also for careful people who act bravely. Anyway, even if we were afraid to fight, it is too late. If we quit we will be conquered and enslaved. They have already got the chains ready. You can hear them clanking in Boston. The war is going to come no matter what, and I say let it come. Go ahead, let it come.
There is no point in putting this off. People
can look for peace all they want, but there isn't going to be any.
The war has already started! There is, or soon will be, fighting
to the north of us. Our fellow citizens are already prepared and
waiting. Why do we do nothing? What do you want? What?
Are you so fond of life and peace that you are willing to be enslaved in
chains to keep it? God forbid! I don't know what anyone else
wants, but, for me, either let me be free or just go ahead and kill me.
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|There is one particularly prevalent and extremely powerful stylistic feature in Dr. King's speech, which also occurs at least twice to great effect in President Kennedy's speech -- prepositional phrases of a certain sort that connect two nouns by means of the word "of". Typically the first noun is highly descriptive, and sometimes even more strongly characterized by modifiers or strong verbs of its own, but it is an extraneous or metaphorical noun, and the second noun -- the object of the preposition "of" -- is a more prosaic word that is the true object of importance in terms of meaning. For example, from the Kennedy speech: "between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of 'normalcy,'" and from the King speech: "to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope," "battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality," and, of course, the justly famous "they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". In all these cases no meaning is lost, but tremendous power is lost, if you remove the first noun and accompanying modifiers along with the preposition "of". Hence the above would become "between progress and normalcy," "despair and hope," "persecution and police brutality," and "not judged by their skin (color) but by their character." (Return to text.)|