Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an outstanding and brave leader in his campaign for civil rights and for beginning a campaign for economic justice for people of all races. In addition, he provided another example of tremendous courage and moral conviction in 1967 when he challenged the U.S. war on Vietnam. His speech “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” was an important, insightful and brilliant contribution to America, but it is often overlooked.

Many people discouraged him from addressing Vietnam and distanced themselves after he gave his address. The media was also quite critical of him. He knew what he was risking, but he adhered to his principles and to the teachings of Jesus and other religious leaders.

In his address, he pointed out that the U.S. government was putting profit motives and property rights over the needs of people. He addressed problems caused by the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism. Dr. King said that they could not be overcome as long as the U.S. government continued down its path of using force to resist positive changes. He also concluded that the U.S. government was then the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Needless to say, this speech was not well received by the political establishment nor the American public.

Unfortunately, our political leaders have too often failed to heed his words of wisdom, and they have rarely followed his nonviolent example of standing up for civil rights, economic justice, and international and human rights laws. Dr. King did what was right despite the personal consequences. I wish I could say that these failures were limited to political leaders, but I’m afraid too many of us share these same faults.

The recent House of Representatives vote on H.Res.11 that rebuked the U.N. for its Security Council Resolution 2334 about illegal Israeli settlements clearly demonstrated a congressional failure to support international law. The U.N. resolution strongly reiterated the fact that all Israeli settlements built on Palestinian territory are illegal and also demanded that all Israeli settlement activities must stop. About 20 percent of House members, including Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, demonstrated enough courage to vote in support of international law. Please call and thank her for this act of courage at 303-844-4988. Please also ask Rep. Jared Polis, 303-484-9596, why he supported this continuing violation of international law that has been ongoing for 49 years.

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.

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