LaRouche in Talladega: The Immortal Talent Of Martin Luther King

Lyndon LaRouche keynoted the Jan. 19 Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 19, sponsored by the Talladega County (Alabama) Democratic Conference. City Councilman Rev. Horace Patterson introduced the first speaker, civil rights heroine Amelia Boynton Robinson, the vice chairman of the Schiller Institute, who in turn introduced LaRouche.

Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.: Thank you, young lady. Oh, thank you Amelia! She’s very special to us, and to my wife—when I say “we”—my wife, as well. She’s been like a mother to my wife. And she’s been precious.

We have two problems, I think, which should be the basis for reflecting on Martin’s life, today. One, we have a national crisis. Now, I’m not going to mince words; and I’m not going to do any political hacking. But the facts have to be told. This economy is collapsing! The situation, relatively speaking, in terms of basic economic infrastructure, of the United States today, is worse than in 1933, when Roosevelt came into the White House, in March.

That is, you look around you: infrastructure, energy, so forth; the conditions of life of our people, around the world; and don’t look in the big cities, where they put on a façade, and say, “Things are fine.” Look in the communities. For example, Detroit, now, has half the population it used to have. An industrial city is gone. Look around Birmingham, you see how the same thing is reported. It was never rich. But, their sense of loss, of loss, of loss, of this, of that: That’s the situation of the United States.

Then you get an indifference, an indifference to the problems of the United States. We have 48, at least, of the 50 states are bankrupt, hopelessly bankrupt. That is, the states can not possibly raise the tax revenue, without sinking the economy further, to meet the essential obligations of government. This is characteristic of at least 48 states.

And it’s getting worse.

‘We’re in Trouble’

If you look at the cost of living, the increase of the cost of living, as compared to what is officially reported, look at the prices of food in grocery stores, over the past six months, in the United States.

Look at the fact that the U.S. dollar—not long ago, 83 cents would buy a euro; today it takes a $1.26 or $1.28 to buy a euro. The U.S. dollar is collapsing in value.

What is increasing, is the amount of money associated with gambling. And the biggest form of gambling is occurring on Wall Street. The money is going to drive up—in a purely speculative way, on side bets on the economy—to drive up the value of stock prices for some companies. And, as soon as some company gets rich, the leaders of the company go to prison, like Enron. Because we have gone from the “steel” business, to the “stealing” business. The nature of the economy.

We’re in trouble. We’re in trouble on a world scale. Since January of 2002, when the present President made an unfortunate speech, in the State of the Union Address, the attitude toward the United States, has fallen rapidly to the lowest I’ve ever seen, among nations all over the world. Throughout Eurasia, throughout the Americas, the United States is despised, where it was still at least respected, or even loved, before. We are in trouble.

And look at the world. The world faces a great crisis. And the United States faces a great crisis, in dealing with the world. The largest concentrations of population of the world are China, for example, at one point, 1.3 billion or more; India over 1 billion; then you have Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the countries of Southeast Asia: This is the greatest concentration of population on this planet. It’s an emerging part of the world. The question is, what’s the relationship of the United States to these people of Asia, who represent, by and large, different cultural backgrounds, than those of us in the United States or in Western Europe?

How are we going to find peace in a troubled world? How are we going to find reconciliation in a troubled world, with countries which have turned against us, because of the war policies of Cheney and some others?

So, we face the situation.

Now, go back a little bit, to the time that Bill Clinton was inaugurated as President. Now, think about something some of you know about: Think about the status of the Black Caucus, Legislative Caucus, or Black Congressional Caucus, in 1993, when Bill Clinton came into the White House. Now—go through the list of names: Where are those people, and their replacements today? There has been a winnowing out of the political achievements, throughout the country, of the black caucuses.

This is the problem I deal with constantly, actually from 1996 on. It became worse, accelerated. Brutally.

The Significance of Martin Luther King, Today

So, we do not face a new problem today, in one sense. We face the same problem, in principle, that Martin faced. And faced successfully. And I would propose, that in the lesson of Martin Luther King, and his life, there is something we can learn today, which brings him back to life, as if he were standing here, alive, today. There’s something special about his life, his development, which should be captured today, by us, not only in addressing the problems of our nation, which are becoming terrible; but the problems of our relationship with the world as a whole. How are we going to deal with these cultures that are different than our own? With an Asian culture; with the Muslim cultures around the world—over a billion Muslims around the world; with the culture of China, which is different than ours; the culture of Southeast Asia, which is different than ours; the culture of Myanmar?

They’re all human. They all have the same ultimate requirements, the same needs. But, they’re different cultures. They think differently. They respond to different predicates than we respond to. But, we must have peaceful cooperation with these people, to solve world problems.

Then you start thinking about someone like Martin. And I want to indicate, in the context I just stated, what the significance of Martin is, today. We had no replacement for Martin, lesson number one. Martin was a unique personality. He was not a talented person who happened to stumble into leadership, and could be easily replaced by other leaders who would learn the job, and take over afterward. We had no replacement. No one in the position to replace him. Many wished to be—they didn’t have it.

What did Martin have? What was the essence of Martin, that made him something special? Let’s compare three cases, to get at this. One, Martin himself. The other, the case of France’s famous heroine, Jeanne d’Arc—and I’m rather familiar with the details of the actual history of the Jeanne d’Arc case, which is comparable, in a sense, a very special way, to the case of Martin. And then, also, with a fictitious case, but which points to the problem we face: the case of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, especially the Hamlet of the Third Act soliloquy.

Now, what was the issue? Martin was truly a man of God. Truly. In a way that very few people are actually able to realize in their lifetime. It wasn’t just that he was a man of God: It’s that he rose to the fuller appreciation of what that meant. Obviously, the image for him was Christ, and the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That was his source of strength. He lived that. He had gone to the mountaintop, at a point that he knew his life was threatened by powerful forces in the United States. And he said, “I will not shrink from this mission, even if they kill me.” Just as Christ said, and I’m sure that was in Martin’s mind, at that point. The Passion and Crucifixion of Christ is the image which is the essence of Christianity. It’s an image, for example, in Germany, or elsewhere, where the Bach St. Matthew Passion is performed. It’s a two-hour performance, approximately. In those two hours, the audience, the congregation, the singers, the musicians, re-live, in a powerful way, the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. And this has always been important: To re-live that. To capture the essence of what Christ means, for all Christians. And Martin showed that.

The difference is this—and I’ll come back to Jeanne d’Arc (or call it, Joan of Arc, in English). The difference is, most people tend to believe, “Yes, I wish to go to Heaven,” or something like that. Or, don’t. Don’t care. But, they are looking for answers within the bounds of their mortal life. They’re thinking of the satisfactions of the flesh. The security they will enjoy, between the bounds of birth and death. Whereas, the great leader, like Martin, rises to a higher level. They think of their life, as the Gospel presents it, as a “talent.” That is, life is a talent, given to you: You’re born, and you die. That is your talent, what you have in that period. The question is, you’re going to spend it anyway. How are you going to spend it? What are you going to spend it for, to secure for all eternity? What are you going to do, as a mission, that will earn you the place you want to occupy in eternity?

Martin had a clear sense of that. That mountaintop address, for me, struck me years ago—clear: It was just a clear understanding of exactly what he was saying; what he was saying to others. Life is a talent: It is not what you get out of life; it’s what you put into it, that counts.

Martin had that. That’s why he was a leader. And I’ve known many of the other leaders with him, in that period. They didn’t quite have the same spark. They may have accepted the idea. They may have believed in it. But, it didn’t grip them the same way it did Martin. And it came to grip him, I’m sure, more and more, as he took on more and more responsibilities. As a leader, you feel this. You see your people. You see the things you have to cope with, the suffering; you see the danger. And you have to find within yourself the strength, not to flinch. Not to compromise.

The Martyrdom of Joan of Arc

Take the case of Jeanne d’Arc, to the comparison—Joan of Arc, as she’s called. This is the real history: She was such a significant figure, in the 15th Century, that her history was thoroughly documented at the time, and cross-checked and so forth. She was a figure in all Christianity. She was a key figure in the history of France.

Here she is, a woman, a young woman, coming from a farming background, who is inspired to believe that France must be freed from the terrible occupation of the Norman chivalry; that France must become a true nation. And that it must be risen out of its condition, to become a nation, to take care of these problems; that God wished this to happen. So, she went, through a series of events, to a Prince, who was the heir, nominally, to the throne of France. And she said to this Prince—having gotten in there with various credentials—”God wants you to become King.” And he looked at her, and he said, “What do you want from me?” She said, “I don’t want anything from you. God wants you to become a King.”

And so, because of her power, of her personality and her mission, the King gave her the command of some troops, in a very serious battle at that time, under the assumption that she would be killed, as the leader of these troops, and that would settle the whole problem. She wasn’t killed. She won the battle! Personally leading the battle!

And, France was mobilized for the idea of its independence, to a large degree, as a result.

Then the time came that the Prince was crowned King. But then the King betrayed her to the enemies of France, to the British, the Normans. And she was put on trial by the Inquisition, which is a horrible thing. This is the worst kind of injustice you can imagine. And in the course of the trial, she was offered bait: “If you will back off a little bit, girl, we won’t burn you at the stake, alive.” And she said, “No.” She flinched—”Maybe I should compromise.” She had priests in there, trying to get her to compromise. She said, “I won’t compromise. I can not betray my mission.”

She had gone to the mountaintop. “I will not betray my mission. I will stay my course.”

So, they took her. They tied her to a stake. They piled the wood on the stake. They set fire to the stake, while she was alive. They cooked her to death. Then, they opened the pile of wood, to see if she was alive or not; they found she was dead. And they continued the process, restarted the fire, and burned her, into ashes.

But, out of that, two things happened. Out of that, France revived and got its independence. And later, got the first modern nation-state of Louis XI, that is, Louis the Eleventh of France. And the significance of that is this, for us today: Because of that victory, because of what happened with Louis XI of France, we had the first European state, in which the government was responsible for the general welfare of all of the people. The general welfare, means exactly what it means in I Corinthians 13, when Paul writes of agape; or we sometimes call “love,” or “charity.” It’s that quality. It is not the law, it is not the rule-book, that counts. It’s your love of humanity that counts. That you must always live for your love of humanity. And therefore, government is not legitimate, except as government is efficiently committed to the general welfare, of not only all of the people, but also the improvement of the condition of life of their posterity.

And, for the first time, in France, with that state, the principle of constitutional law, that government can not treat some of the people as human cattle—it is not legitimate; it is not a nation, if it treats some of its people as human cattle—it must think of the general welfare of all of the people. It must be captured by a sense of responsibility to all of the people and to their posterity.

Because we’re all mortal. And to arouse in us the passions, while we’re alive, which will impel us to do good, we have to have a sense that our life, and the consuming of our life—the spending of our talent, is going to mean something for coming generations. The best people look for things—like Moses—that are going to happen, when he will no longer be around to enjoy them. It’s this sense of immortality. It’s why parents, in the best degree, sacrifice for their children. It’s why communities sacrifice for education, for their children, for opportunities for their children. You go through the pangs of suffering and shortage, but you have the sense that you’re going someplace, that your life is going to mean something. That you can die with a smile on your face: You’ve conquered death. You’ve spent your talent wisely, why life will mean something better for generations to come.

That was the principle! That principle inspired the man who became King Henry VII of England, to do the same thing against the evil Richard III, and establish England, at that time, as the second modern nation-state.

In a sense, that’s what Martin was doing, the same kind of process.

Hamlet, and the Problem With Education

But, now, let’s take the other side of the thing. Let’s take the case of Hamlet: Hamlet says, that we have the opportunity to fight, to free ourselves from horrible conditions, but! But, what happens after we die? What happens beyond death? And, it is the fear of what happens beyond death, which makes people cowards: And, that is our problem, in the United States, today! It’s the problem of our leadership in the Democratic Party. It’s the problem in the Republican Party, because not all Republicans are bad. Some of them are very good. I intend to incorporate some of them in my government. I’m not very partisan, when it comes to government. I’m partisan about getting it established.

So, that’s the point. The problem here is this: [Most Americans do not] actually believe that man is different than an animal. Do you think, in the schools today, in the newspapers today—do you think that Americans believe, in any significant way, that man is different than an animal?

Our teaching, we don’t teach that. Look at our standard curriculum. Many of you know something about education. What our education policies are now, nationally, are a crime. You don’t know anything—you learn to pass a test! And you wonder if the person who designs the test knows what they’re talking about. Tests are issued in various parts of the country, not to test what you’ve done to the students, in terms of what they know. Sometimes the students come out, saying, “I know nothing.” Honor students say, “In my years in secondary school, I learned nothing! The way it’s being taught now, under the standard now.” What they’re testing is the obedience training of the students, in that school district, or that part of the country, as measured by some standard. Districts are competing for money! And the performance, like the dog training, of the students in the school becomes a standard, for how much money and how many honors that district will get in the following year.

We’re no longer concerned. We don’t believe, as a nation—we don’t believe in developing people! We have become like Rome, ancient Rome, a society of “bread and circuses.” Get your crumbs, and be entertained. And the entertainment gets more and more vicious as it goes along.

For example, today, do people work? Is their mentality one of working? Do they believe in work? Do they believe the society gives them the opportunity to work? No. It doesn’t. It gives them the opportunity to get some money.

What is the biggest growth industry in the United States? Gambling. What is Wall Street? Gambling. What is Enron? Gambling. What’re these guys that are going to jail in New York? Gamblers.

The mentality of the country is that if you’re getting lucky, and winning the lottery, and winning at the track, that you’re getting ahead. Even though your industry is collapsing, your farm is gone, the city government can no longer afford to take care of your essential needs: We’ve gone into becoming a gambling society.

We rely on what? Mass entertainment! What kind of mass entertainment? Isn’t this something you really should be ashamed of?

We no longer regard human beings as human. We no longer understand what is human.

I started a youth movement, some four years ago. It concentrates on young people 18-25 years of age, that is, the university age-group. And, as you know, people, when they get to about 18-25, under normal conditions, have passed over from thinking of themselves as adolescents—as being half-adults/half-children—into becoming, in a sense, adults. They have adult confidence, adult impulses, and so forth….

If man were an ape, for example, the population of human beings on this planet would never have exceeded several million individuals. So, don’t make a monkey out of man. We have now, over 6 billion people on this planet, to take care of—and they’re growing. The point is that man has been able to discover what no animal can do: To discover universal physical principles of the universe, to apply these discovered principles to make improvements in society, which increases man’s power over nature, just as you can read in Genesis 1: man and woman made equally in the image of the Creator, in the likeness of the Creator, and responsible for this function. That’s what we are.

When we teach physical science, when we teach Classical art, and when we teach history from that standpoint, we are actually imparting to young people, a sense of their humanity. They are capable of re-enacting the great discoveries of principle from the past, whether in art, or whether in physical science. When they know that, they know the difference between themselves and the beast. They pride themselves on this, and they say, “We’re human.” And they can look at each other with love, a kind of love which is expressed in education by the proper kind of class, in which students share in the process of fighting through the act of discovery for themselves, a principle presented to them as a challenge and a paradox.

I mean, there’s a loving relationship, a class of the size of 15-25, typical, good university, good secondary school class; in which the students are given the responsibility, given a challenge, to try to fight it through among themselves. And, the good teacher tries to evoke this kind of response from among the students, find two or three in the class that’ll start the discussion; and try to get the entire class involved in the discussion. So that, what comes out of that is not memorizing something in a textbook. What comes out of that, is the process of a social experience of discovering the meaning of a principle, as if they had made the original discovery themselves. This is done, not by teaching the individual student (although that sometimes works)—it’s done by getting the students to interact, in the process of discussion!

That’s why you want a class size of between 15 and 25. Not too many, to exclude the opportunity for people to participate. Not too few, so you don’t get the stimulation of starting the discussion. But, it’s this social process of relationship, among people who love each other, in a higher sense, because they have shared the process of discovery of a principle; or they’ve understood something about history. But, they shared it! And, the idea of sharing human knowledge, as human knowledge, is the essential act of loving. And you love mankind, and you’re happy with mankind, when you have worked together to make a discovery together with people.

And you realize you can rely on those people for that kind of method. You got a problem with them? Well, go back to the method. Talk to them, the same way you do in a classroom. Fight it out with them. And these young people are fun: They fight it out, until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I usually—you know, when I give a lecture with these guys, they go at me for about four hours. I give them about a one-hour presentation, or something like that, and they’re at me—they’re at me, all over the place! But, it’s beautiful! It’s wonderful! And, I think anybody who’s been in education, knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s beautiful—it’s wonderful.

So, this is the problem: We have a population, we have a world, in which there’s a shortage of people who actually understand, fully, the meaning of the difference between man and beast. That man is a creature, as defined by Genesis 1, is made in the likeness of the Creator of the universe.

This is us!

Because we transmit these ideas, because we transmit this work as no animal can, we love one another. We love the people who come before us. We love those who are coming after us. We care for them. In a very selfish way: Because, in our spending our talent of life, our sense of beauty depends upon what was coming out of our life, in future generations. We love children for that reason. They’re our children. We love grandchildren, even more than children, sometimes. Because, our children were able to produce these children—that’s great! I mean, you love them specially. Particularly, a person becomes a grandparent, they love these grandchildren especially for that reason.

So, this kind of loving is lacking, generally, in the population, in leaders.

Reach the ‘Forgotten Man’

Martin obviously had that. Martin was one of the rare people, in his time, who had a deep sense of what it is to be a human being. Who had a deep sense of the lesson of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. He was able to bring to politics—which he didn’t go into to get in as politics, as such—he was a natural leader. The natural leader is one, who comes not from the political process as such, but from the people. Martin never achieved political office. Yet, he was probably as important a figure of the United States as any modern President. He achieved that. His authority, as a leader, came from the people. He fought against the people, and with the people, to free them. He was a leader, in a true sense. His power as a political force, in the nation and in the world, came from his relationship to the people.

And, that’s our situation, today. And why I’m so glad to be here, and have this opportunity to be with you: Because you typify those who are struggling, in this country and abroad, for the so-called “forgotten man,” as Franklin Roosevelt was summoned, in 1933, to the Presidency. Eighty percent of the population of the United States, in particular, and many around the world, are the forgotten man and woman. Nobody really cares about them. Take the case of health care, the health care history; take the case of all kinds of things.

The only way you can renew a nation—as Martin made a great contribution to renewing the United States—is, you have to go to the forgotten man and woman, especially to the “have-nots,” and if you can express a loving attitude, toward the problem of the have-nots, those who are the lower side of life—then, you are capable of representing the principle, upon which modern government should be based. The same principle that Jeanne d’Arc made possible, in a sense, in her contribution to the emergence of France as the first modern nation-state, committed to the general welfare.

If you want to be a true politician, you must be committed to the general welfare. You must be committed to mankind. And to be committed to mankind, is to look at the person who’s in the worst condition, in general—and uplift them! Then, you really have proven, that you care about the general welfare. If you don’t go to those people, you’re not with the general welfare. If you don’t have your roots in a fight for the general welfare, you’re not capable of leading our nation, which is a nation Constitutionally committed to the general welfare.

Martin had that.

All the great leaders of history have usually come out of that kind of background. They were not born leaders. They were not elected to be leaders. Some of them became elected, in the course of life. But, they didn’t start out and establish their leadership by being elected. They established their leadership, by finding their roots in the struggle for the well-being of humanity. They became the representatives of some groups, struggling for that right; or, advocate of that group, struggling for its rights. And they rose to a position of leadership, because they had the moral character, built into them, in the image of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ.

And, as they get deeper into the business, and it becomes more dangerous, as they get more influential—life does become more dangerous, as you become more influential—then they realize that they are risking their life. And, they have to ask themselves: “For what am I going to risk my life? For what will I not? What will I not betray, even at the cost of losing my life?”

And, you’re thrown right back to the question of the Crucifixion and Passion of Christ.

The Passion of a True Leader

And that’s where we are today. Martin had that. The problem in the United States, and the movement today, is we have, in the movement itself, become—shall we say—”civilized” in “going along to get along” with the political establishment. And, it’s in tending to believe that the road to success is “going along to get along,” you lose sight of the passion which should motivate the true political leader. The passion is this commitment: You have a talent. You have a sense of what your life means. You have a sense of obligation, a mission in life to uplift the nation, by uplifting a certain part of the population, or all of it.

And you will do nothing to betray that! That gives you power: It gives you the power of being a creature made in the image of the living Creator. You tap it. Martin tapped it. He was a man of God—not just by God, but of God. He was a man, who in the course of life, destiny gave him the mission of being a man of God. And, he had the strength to do that. He had the strength to walk the road of Christ. To walk through Gesthemane. To walk through the Crucifixion. He had that strength, as Jeanne did, in her own way.

And, that’s the lesson, I believe, that has to be taught, has to be understood, if we’re going to save this nation. We need to tap into that power. And, as I say, of all the images of recent political leaders of the United States, Martin, both as a national leader, and as a world leader—which he also was, in terms of his influence—is the best example of the kind of personality who we must have, and must develop, to get us out of the horrible, frightening mess that threatens us today.

Thank you, very much.