The Beyond Vietnam Speech by Martin Luther King Jr.


The article “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” was a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s address on April 4, 1967. The speech was lectured to a group of individuals convened by Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV) at the Riverside Church. The fact that MLK was the individual who “broke the silence,” as the source’s title implies, demonstrates that the American public had long been concerned regarding what the United States was doing worldwide. The article’s main contention was that America was fighting an unjust, unjustified war in Southeast Asia that primarily harmed the vulnerable and weak in both nations’ societies.


The speech’s first theme was that of nonviolence and resistance to imperialism. His civil rights advocacy was built on nonviolent civil disobedience. King harshly denounced the US government’s participation in the Vietnam War. His emphasis on militarism’s role in escalating violence is just one aspect of the speech’s broad significance. King obliquely references Henry David Thoreau’s anti-war writings and other American anti-war traditions. He emphasizes how challenging it is to hold a pro-peace viewpoint, which does not just mean disagreeing with government policy.

Equality and social welfare make up the second theme, which King used to describe the war as an opponent of the poor. A substantial portion of King’s argument was predicated on the notion that achieving justice needed financial investment. King noted that the US government was spending millions to fund the war. Supporting the expensive war abroad meant that the poor at home would suffer. He alleged, “The war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home” (Beyond Vietnam 2). Therefore, extending the Vietnam War entailed disregarding the needs of the most vulnerable Americans.

The theme of independence and colonialism in terms of both theory and application was examined by King when addressing Vietnamese autonomy. He questioned the US’s dedication to independence, which was seen as the nation’s fundamental value. Before Vietnam gained its freedom, the United States had sabotaged sincere attempts for independence by backing the French. That mindset was maintained by the war, which ignored popular sentiment and effectively recolonized Vietnam by making it reliant on the US.


This source significantly impacted America’s decision to terminate the Vietnam War and alter the moral precepts that gave rise to other similarly questionable wars. Its strength is its usefulness to historians of the day, and its weaknesses include the use of figurative language, which can confuse some readers. The “Beyond Vietnam” speech considerably contributed to history since it followed the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center’s teachings and reflected changes in political activity through time. The document is essential to historians studying this era because it was authored by MLK, who had become one of the most potent civil rights campaigners by the time it was published. It allows them access to the domestic and international political climates of the Vietnam War era. It demonstrated the necessity for significant reforms in the economy and political life of the country. The use of figurative language makes reading enjoyable; however, it may confuse the learner, which could indicate a minor comprehension problem, and this is this paper’s shortcoming.


The articles defend its thesis as, throughout its body, it convinces people to comprehend the effects of America’s ongoing involvement in Vietnam. It has significantly boosted my understanding of this subject as it explains the turn of events during the Vietnam War. This article has contributed to the existing literature as it is an incredibly touching and impactful address that helped to pave the way for numerous historical occurrences. For example, this article’s information on capitalism and communalism is the same as in books. Another example is that evidence from this article is used in the study of the Cold War occurrences (Whitfield, 266-272). Millions of people’s lives have been altered nationwide by this speech, but more importantly, it has shaped the US.

Works Cited

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence: Martin Luther King, Speech 1967 – CRM Vet. Web.

Whitfield, Stephen J. The culture of the Cold War. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

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