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What We’re Reading: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1964 Nobel Lecture on Racial Injustice, Poverty, and War

By Emily Riemer

On December 11, 1964, the day after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave this lecture at the University of Oslo in Norway. In the lecture, he discussed what he said was “the most pressing problem facing mankind today,” which is a moral and spiritual poverty. As King put it:

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo courtesy of nobelprize.org)"This problem of spiritual and moral ‘lag,’ which constitutes modern man’s chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man’s ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war."

Dr. King outlined the need to find a solution to all three of these great human problems, and when he addressed the issue of poverty, he outlined the need for aid not only for international but for domestic poverty.

"So it is obvious that if man is to redeem his spiritual and moral ‘lag,’ he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it."

You may read the lecture transcript at nobelprize.org or listen to an excerpt by clicking here.

Today, nearly 50 years later, the issues that Dr. King implored his audience to address are still urgent societal problems that need solutions. So today, in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday, how will you answer his call? Will you address this BIG need for an end to injustice, violence and poverty? How and where will you embody God’s agape love — an unlimited loving kindness, charity, towards all people — which King described as “the love of God operating in the human heart?” At Opportunity International, we strive to embody this agape love in our work, bringing financial solutions to families, enabling them to work themselves out of poverty, to give their children a better future, and offering them the tools to live with dignity and find a voice–a “somebodiness,” as King termed it–in their community.

Let today, Martin Luther King Day, be the catalyst that prompts you to get involved with life-changing work that addresses economic and social injustice. Consider contributing to Opportunity’s fundraising efforts at opportunity.org/give or visit opportunity.org/be-tinvolved to take action. We hope that Dr. King’s legacy will inspire you today and all days.

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