Convocation: A call to assemble, to reflect on the ways our “core” values—creativity, compassion, commitment—impact and sustain our professional lives. An opportunity for students and faculty to connect across programs and to reflect on the shared values of each of our disciplines.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Agnes Flanagan Chapel
3:30 Student sign-in
4:00 Convocation begins
5:00 Break into small groups for discussion
After welcomes from the President of the College and Dean of the Graduate School, we will listen to a 20-minute segment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence.”
This speech was delivered on April 4, 1967 at a meeting of a National Council of Churches organization called Clergy and Laity Concerned exactly one year before his assassination. In it King spoke out against racism, militarism, and materialism in ways that challenged fundamental elements of U.S. society and called for a rethinking of American values and our way of life.
The speech resulted in King’s isolation from a number of other Civil Rights leaders and marked an evolution in his thinking that has tended to be overlooked in the way his work and life have been remembered. Although the specifics he addressed then have changed, his critique raises important questions that bear continued consideration as the citizens of this country grapple with poverty, inequity, war, and an economy that is eroding the ecological foundation of our lives.
As a way to begin this year of study together, we invite you to read the text of this speech (found below) and consider its contemporary implications. During the convocation, we will listen to a recorded excerpt from this talk, briefly reflect upon it in writing, and then discuss in small groups its potential meaning for us as people who work in the fields of education and counseling.
After small group discussions, the community will gather for light refreshments in the South Campus Conference Center.
Required for Convocation
Participation in Convocation is a requirement for all full-time master’s-degree-seeking students. If you have any questions regarding your Convocation requirement, please contact your advisor.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Beyond Vietnam— A Time to Break Silence
Delivered 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:
I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, and some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit.
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I’m in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Click here to read the rest of the speech (PDF)