And I submit this afternoon that we can end poverty in the United States. Our nation has the resources to do it. The National Gross Product of America will rise to the astounding figure of some $780 billion this year. We have the resources: The question is, whether our nation has the will, and I submit that if we can spend $35 billion a year to fight an ill-considered war in Vietnam, and $20 billion to put a man on the moon, our nation can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth.
I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
“It’s much easier to eradicate segregation, for instance, on buses and public accommodations than it is to eradicate slums. It is much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to create jobs. We are in a phase of the struggle now which is really a struggle for genuine equality.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Was More Radical Than We Remember
King’s beliefs in a more radical vision for America became manifest in his later social organizing work. In early 1968, King planned the Poor People’s Campaign, a march on Washington, D.C., meant to demand greater attention to the economic disparities between class groups, disparities that most frequently had a disproportionate effect on black people. The campaign had a radical vision, one that demanded access to housing, employment, and health care for those historically denied those rights. While it had no specific racial target, it challenged Congress to pass sweeping anti-poverty legislation.Teen Vogue
Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at SMU on March 17, 1966
I need not remind you of the dangers here. There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel they have no stake in it, who feel they have nothing to do. These are the people who will riot. And in spite of the pleas for nonviolence, they often fall on deaf ears out of the frustrations of poverty, out of the frustrations of being left on the periphery of life, pushed out of the main stream of life. Out of the heaving desperation surrounding their days, they often end up seeing life as a long and desperate corridor with no exit sign. And so it is necessary to develop massive public works programs. It is necessary to develop massive training programs. It is necessary to lift the minimum wage and extend the coverage so that all of God’s children will have the basic necessities of life.Southern Methodist University