Honor Martin Luther King’s Dream by Reflecting on His Last Speech

By Joe Colletti | April 3, 2018 | Comments Off on Honor Martin Luther King’s Dream by Reflecting on His Last Speech

Joe Colletti, PhD
April 3, 2018 

It was 50 years ago today that Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) gave his last speech at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee during the evening before the day he was assassinated. 

His speech has been entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” and also “I’ve Seen the Promised Land.” Both titles are fitting because nearly at the very end of his speech, he prophetically proclaimed: 

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now.
We’ve got some difficult days ahead.
But it doesn’t matter with me now.
Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I’m not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God’s will.
And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I’ve looked over.
And I’ve seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight, that we,
as a people will get to the promised land.” 

These words of MLK clearly are based on Hebrews 11, a passage that has been entitled by some as “Faith in Action” and that begins with,

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (verse 1).”

The next verse states, “This is what the ancients were commended for. . . ” and the next eight verses lists some of them and what they were commended for.

MLK clearly tied the next two verses to the near ending of his speech:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own (verses 13 and 14).”

MLK was “still living by faith when (he) died.” He “did not receive the things promised.” He “saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” He was “looking for a country” in which the impoverished would be no more. Not just for impoverished Blacks, but for those who were impoverished of any race.

MLK gave his speech before a predominately African-American Christian crowd and encouraged them to act, as evident when the speech is read. However, that does not mean that only African American Christians should read the speech today and act upon it. You should read it and act upon it no matter what your race or creed.

The promised land that MLK saw from a distance was the fruit of, and occupied by, persons of all races and creeds as evident in many of his other speeches. Click here to read his last speech, which is a little longer than most of his other speeches.