King Stands As the Standard

Tremendous passage from Paul Greenberg:

History is up to its old tricks again. The radical agitator of one generation becomes the conservative icon of another. Martin Luther King Jr. meets the very definition of an American conservative, that is, someone dedicated to preserving the gains of a liberal revolution.

Even when he was leading the civil rights movement, what appeal could have been more conservative or more American than his now classic speech before the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963?

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Is any passage more frequently cited against the quota system called Affirmative Action? Is any passage so clear a call for what conservative candidates for president always seem to be calling for — character?


King’s rhetorical might belied his relative youth; Orrin Judd adds, “the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t even have been 80 until next year. All this change has occurred within his natural life span. Pretty remarkable.”

Update: Don’t miss Virginia Postrel’s post on the generation of culture warriors immediately before King:

With the Tuskegee Airmen headed to the inauguration, let’s take a moment to remember what they looked like when they were young and glamorous–and, of course, just how subversive that glamour was.

Be sure to scroll through the accompanying sideshow.


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