(Note: This speech opened the 24th Annual Convention of Veterans For Peace last weekend in College Park, MD.)
In Paul Newman's 1967 classic, "Cool Hand Luke," the prison boss in the white suit, played memorably by Strother Martin, repeatedly tells Luke to "get your mind right." That turned out to be literally a grave warning for Luke, but it's exactly what we need to hear today.
We begin our meetings today against a backdrop of a crippled economy, sweeping foreclosures, widespread unemployment, millions without medical benefits, wars that now exceed a trillion dollars and have killed over a million people.
It's a fair question to ask, that with a name like Veterans For Peace, should we be concerned with issues that go so far beyond opposing war? The answer is "yes," because war and our economic calamities are not only connected, one is the dominant cause of all the others, and VFP is well positioned to make this argument.
As we open our convention I'd like to open a discussion on something even more fundamental than war and economic calamity. As is true so many times when talking about fundamentals, we can refer to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The same year "Cool Hand Luke," played in theaters, Dr. King spoke at Riverside Church in New York, giving what many believe was his greatest speech, "Beyond Vietnam." In it, he called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
"Time" magazine called King's speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi."
But every word in King's speech was true "" and timeless. Here are a couple gems.