Apr 05

Remembering Dr. King

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 04/05/2022 5:54AM | Quote of the Week | Civil Rights | Human Rights


Our Quote of the Week marks the 54th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A contemporary of Sargent Shriver's, Dr. King's message of nonviolence, and his tenacity in pursuing dignity and equality for all, continue to guide us today.

Sargent Shriver spoke these words during the landmark Speech at the University of Notre Dame on Civil and Human Rights. In the speech, he underlines the connections between civil rights and human rights:

"[W]hat we call civil rights in America is part of a broader category of human rights which must apply everywhere in the world. While it is important to recognize the legitimate distinction between the whole and its American part, at the same time we must see and understand them together. They are philosophically related: Our conception of civil rights flows from deeper conceptions of the nature of man and society, the same sources for our conception of human rights. They are politically related: If the United States is to stand as an advocate for human rights abroad, as I think it must, then we must act for civil rights at home. Finally, they are problematically related: A series of emerging issues before us cuts across the traditional distinctions between domestic and foreign policy. Indeed, we now face practical problems of a transnational nature which witness empirically to insights which poets and philosophers have expressed for centuries about the unity of the human family, its solidarity and its single destiny."

He goes on to describe a "human rights view of society":

"At the heart of a human rights view of society stands the concept of the person, a spiritual being set apart from the rest of creation with a capacity for thought, generosity, friendship and love. The unique character or nature of the person means that he or she is possessed of a spectrum of rights, moral claims which can be asserted as a means of defending personality, property and privacy and enhancing his or her human potential. Without rights, human dignity is vulnerable to attack from both the organized powers of the state and the disorganized chaos into which human relationships deteriorate when the values of personhood no longer command our respect. In order for human rights to be respected, however, it is necessary that the concept of the person be supplemented with a certain vision of society as a community, not a community crowd. The human rights philosophy affirms an interdependence of persons and an interrelationship of rights existing in such a society. This view requires that we be responsible for one another and responsible to one another. The basis of this responsibility is the bond of solidarity existing among all us who share human existence, recognition of our mutual responsibility, and realization of our common bonds are the basic components of our interdependence. Implicit in the concept of interdependence is the idea that the fulfillment of our destiny as human beings is dependent upon the protection of the rights of all."

In this context, Shriver raises the "luminous" example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an individual who combined "philosophical ideals and practical effectiveness" in the United States, who, in other words, "invoked the values of the ideal America to move the conscience of the real America."

Shriver's description of the "human rights view of society" calls to mind Dr. King's own vision of the "Beloved Community." In the words of the King Center:

"Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict."

Thus, as Sargent Shriver might describe it, the Beloved Community assumes that the human rights of all are respected and protected so that all may live together in peace.

As we remember Dr. King, we pledge to work towards his vision of the Beloved Community, today and every day.

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