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MLK Jr.; The Drum Major Instinct

January 11, 2012

The Drum Major Instinct . . . from a sermon delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968. Taken from Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., edited by James M. Washington.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get someone to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like to somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be on the right side of the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a d rum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.

And that’s all I want to say . . . if I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a Chritian ought, if I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right side or your left side, not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right side or your best side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition, but I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in committment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.

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