The tragedy rekindled memories of the great martyrs
of all time who gave their lives so that men might live and grow. We
thought of the great men in your own country who fell to the
assassin's bullet and of Mahatma Gandhi's martyrdom here in this
city, this very month, twenty-one years ago. Such events remain as
wounds in the human consciousness, reminding us of battles, yet to
be fought and tasks still to be accomplished. We should not mourn for men of high
ideals. Rather we should rejoice that we had the privilege of having
had them with us, to inspire us by their radiant personalities. So
today we are gathered not to offer you grief, but to salute a man
who achieved so much in so short a time. It is befitting, Madam,
that you whom he called the "courage by my side", you who gave him
strength and encouragement in his historic mission, should be with
us to receive this award.
You and your husband both had foreseen that death might come to him
violently. It was perhaps inherent in the situation. Dr. King chose
death for the theme of a sermon, remarking that he would like to be
remembered as a drum major for justice, for peace and for
righteousness. When you were once asked what you would do if your
husband were assassinated, you were courage personified, replying
that you might weep but the work would go on. Your face of sorrow,
so beautiful in its dignity coupled with infinite compassion, will
forever be engraved in our hearts.
Mahatma Gandhi also had foreseen his end and had prepared himself
for it. Just as training for violence included learning to kill, the
training for non-violence, he said, included learning how to die.
The true badge of the satyagrahi is to be unafraid.
As if he too had envisaged the martyrdoms of Mahatma Gandhi and
Martin Luther King, Rabindranath Tagore once sang:
In anger we slew him,
With love let us embrace him now,
For in death he lives again amongst us,
The mighty conqueror of death.
This award, Madam, is the highest tribute our nation can bestow on
work for understanding and brotherhood among men. It is named after
a man who himself was a peace-maker and who all his life laboured
passionately for freedom, justice and peace in India and throughout
the world. Dr. Martin Luther King's struggle was for these same
values. He paid for his ideals with his blood, forging a new bond
among the brave and the conscientious of all races and all nations.
Dr. King's dream embraced the poor and the oppressed of all lands.
His work ennobled us. He spoke of the right of man to survive and
recognized three threats to the survival of man--racial injustice,
poverty and war. He realised that even under the lamp of affluence
which was held aloft by science, lay the shadow of poverty,
compelling two-thirds of the peoples of the world to exist in hunger
and want. He proclaimed that mankind could be saved from war only if
we cared enough for peace to sacrifice for it.
Dr. Martin Luther King drew his inspiration from Christ, and his
method of action from Mahatma Gandhi. Only through truth can untruth
be vanquished. Only through love can hatred be quenched. This is the
path of the Buddha and of Christ, and in our own times, that of
Mahatma Gandhi and of Martin Luther King.
They believed in the equality of all men. No more false doctrine has
been spread than that of the superiority of one race over another.
It is ironical that there should still be people in this world who
judge men not by their moral worth and intellectual merit but by the
pigment of their skin or other physical characteristics.
Some governments still rest on the theory of racist
superiority--such as the governments of South Africa and the lawless
regime in Rhodesia. Unregenerate groups in other countries consider
one colour superior to another. Our own battle is not yet over.
Caste and other prejudices still survive, but most of us are ashamed
of them and recognise them as evils to be combated. We are trying
hard to eradicate them.
While there is bondage anywhere, we ourselves cannot be fully free.
While there is oppression anywhere, we ourselves cannot soar high.
Martin Luther King was convinced that one day the misguided people
who believed in racial superiority would realise the error of their
ways. His dream was that white and black, brown and yellow would
live and grow together as flowers in a garden with their faces
turned towards the sun. As you yourself said, "All of us who believe
in what Martin Luther King stood for, must see to it that his spirit
never dies". That spirit can never die. There may be setbacks in our
fight for the equality of all men. There may be moments of gloom.
But victory must and will be ours. Let us not rest until the
equality of all races and religions becomes a living fact. That is
the most effective and lasting tribute that we can pay to Dr. King.
Indira Gandhi Speech
Martin Luther King