Our nation has just honored Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. Dr. King is inarguably a hero to many from many past, present and future generations. His most famous speech is the “I have a dream speech,” delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. In thinking about the upcoming memorial to Dr. King, I came across a lesser known speech and quote from a commencement speech he gave at Oberlin College in June 1965: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
…we are challenged to achieve a world perspective. Anyone who feels that we can live in isolation today, anyone who feels that we can live without being concerned about other individuals and other nations is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The great challenge now is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.
Now it is true that the geographic togetherness of our world has been brought into being, to a large extent, through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man, through his scientific genius, has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. Yes, we’ve been able to carve highways through the stratosphere, and our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and months. And so this is a small world from a geographical point of view. What we are facing today is the fact that through our scientific and technological genius we’ve made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers – or we will all perish together as fools. This is the great issue facing us today. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone. We are tied together.
All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.
Dr. King’s messages are as relevant today as they were when written. This commencement speech hearkens Maria Montessori’s teachings. We are citizens of the world. We learn from those who came before us. We seek a world of peace. These messages are our continued hope for a better world.