Martin Luther King: I Have Been to the Mountaintop

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died on April 4, 1968. Yet he still speaks to us, through his writings and through his recorded speeches. Here is a complete audio recording of his last speech, which is called his I Have Been to the Mountaintop speech, which he delivered the day before his death. He knew that his days were numbered, and he urged the rest of us to carry on.

In my book Not Trivial: How Studying the Traditional Liberal Arts Can Set You Free, I explain that rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Oratory is the art of persuasive speech. In the book, I noted that rich people use public relations and advertising, in order to persuade ordinary people to do what the rich people want them to do.

As I was writing that passage, I thought of three examples of people who used the power of oratory to persuade poor people to stand up for themselves: Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X). To my horror, I realized that all three men were eventually assassinated.

Photo by Mark Fischer

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