The prodigious writer, polymath and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., Vincent Harding is no longer with us in this world. He died recently at the ripe age of 82.
Vincent Harding just passed away. He was a virtual dynamo and powerhouse of information, knowledge and wisdom. Not only was Vincent a scholarly personality, he was a historian and an expert in matters theological.
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A civil rights fighter and speechwriter for MLK Jr., Vincent gave his all for the rights of Black Americans in the USA. He was the mastermind of King’s pro-peace and anti-war speech during the Vietnam era. Exactly one year after the speech, King was assassinated.
In the speech on April 4, 1967, King declared: "Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard?
Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history."
The speech contained such golden phrases and rare gems as: “let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.” Then the words “the choice is ours” was also a part of the long speech in favor of pacifism.
Since his days as a youth in the civil rights movement, Harding was always on the side of peace and hated war. Although he served in the army for a while, he was one of the protestors later on. As a member of the Mennonites peace church he delivered sermons that made so many people turn towards peace instead of war.
Terry Messman of Street Spirit wrote: "Dr. King had already been speaking out against the war, and turned to Harding to draft this eloquent anti-war speech because the two men shared deeply held moral and philosophical convictions about the injustice and cruelty of the Vietnam War.
King essentially delivered Harding’s words that day with only a few modifications. It turned out to be one of the most controversial anti-war speeches in modern U.S. history, and ignited both a firestorm of criticism and an outpouring of support."
Furthermore, after King’s death, Vincent served as the first Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center. He was an author who wrote many books that changed hearts and influenced minds.
In fact during his final days, he was dead against any sort of militant or violent action whether it was committed by a man or an army. He wrote an open letter to Obama upon the killing of Osama bin Laden. Vincent criticized Obama in kind words calling him “son” many times in the letter.
Harding memorably penned a open letter to President Obama in 2011, which decried his decision to kill Osama Bin Laden. He wrote: "My beloved younger brother/son, what are you teaching the nation, this very needy nation? I feel something deeply tragic in all of this.
I am terribly saddened to hear that the keepers of conventional wisdom are praising you for your “gutsy decision” to return evil for evil. What are we teaching our children, my dear son? What is the lesson for all the young men of the black and brown street communities? Could it be that our first president of color shows us how to deal with our enemies, demonstrates what it means to have “guts”?"
He was absolutely against the triple evils of racism, materialism and the use of force. The man will be dearly missed by all who possess a soft heart in this world. He was indeed a beacon of hope and light in the tragic and dark times we are living through.