The Street Sweeper ( The Other Speech)

“What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep the streets like Michelango painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say,”Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill

Be a scrub in the valley-but be

The best little scrub on the side of the hill,

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by the size that you win or fail-

Be the best of whatever you are.

And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life. (Yes)

This onward path to the end of self-fulfillment is the end of a person’s life. Now don’t stop there, though. You know, alot of people get no further in life than the length. They develop their inner powers; they do their jobs well. But do you know, they try to live as if nobody else lives in the world but themselves? (Yes) And they use everybody as mere tools to get to where they’re going. (Yes) They don’t love anybody but themselves. And the only kind of love that they really have for other people is utilitarian love. You know, they just love people they can use. (Well)

Alot of people never get beyond the first dimension of life. They use other people as mere steps by which they can climb to their goals and ambitions. These people don’t work out well in life. They may go for awhile, they may think they are making it all right, but there is a law. ( OH yeah) They call it the law of gravitation in the physical universe, and it works, it’s final, it’s inexorable: whatever goes up can come down. You shall reap what you sow. (Yeah) And he who goes through life not concerned about others will be a subject, victim of this law.

So I move on and say that it is necessary to add breadth to length. Now the breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others, as I said. (Yeah) And a man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Now a lot of people have neglected this third dimension. And you know, the interesting thing is a lot of people neglect it and don’t even know they are neglecting it. They just get involved in other things. And you know, there are two kinds of athesism. Atheism is the theory that there is no God. Now one kind is theoretical kind, where somebody just sits down and starts thinking about it, and they come to a conclusion there is no God. The other kind is a practical atheism, and that kind goes out of living as if there is no God. And you know a lot of people who affirm the existence of God with their lips, and they deny his existence with their lives. (That’s right) You’ve seen these people who have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. They deny the existence of God with their lives and they just become so involved in other thing. They become so involved in getting a big bank account. (Yeah) They become so involved in getting a beautiful house, which we all should have. They become so involved in getting a beautiful car that they unconsciously just forget about God. (Oh Yeah) There are those who become so involved in looking at the man-made lights of the city that they unconsciously forget to rise up and look at the great cosmic light and think about it-that gets up in the eastern horizon every morning and moves across the sky with a kind of symphony of motion and paints its technicolor across the blue-a light that an can never make. (All right) They become so involved in looking at the skyscraping buildings of the loop of Chicago or the Empire State Building of New York they unconsciously forget to think about the gigantic mountains that kiss the skies as if to bathe their peaks in the lofty blue-something that man could never make. They become so busy busy thinking about radar and their television that they unconsciously forget to think about the stars and bedeck the heavens like swinging lanterns of eternity, those stars that appear to be shiny, silvery pins sticking in the magnificent blue pincushion. They become so involved about man’s progress that they forget to think about the need for God’s power in history. They end up going for days and days not knowiing that God is not with them. (Go ahead)

And I’m here to tell you today that we need God.(Yes) Modern man may know a great deal, but his knowledge does not eliminate God. (Right) And I tell you this morning that God is here to stay. A few theologians are trying to say that God is dead. And I’ve been asking them about it because it disturbs to me to know that God died and I didn’t have a chance to attend the funeral. They haven’t been able to tell me yet the date of his death. They haven’t been able to tell me yet who the coroner was that pronounced him dead. They haven’t been able to tell me yet where he’s buried.

You see, when I think about God, I know his name. He said somewhere, back in the Old Testament, “I want you to go out, Moses, and tell them “I AM” sent you. (That’s right) He said to make it clear, let them know that my last name is the same as my first, “I AM” that “I AM.” Make that clear. “I AM.” And God is the only person in the universe that can say “I AM” and put a period behind it. Each of us sitting here has to say, “I am because of my parents; I am because of certain enviromental conditions; I am because of certain hereditary circumstances; I am because of God.” But God is the only being that can say, “I AM” and stop right here. “I AM that I AM.” And He’s here to stay. Let nobody make us feel that we don’t need God.

“This is the God of the universe. And if you believe in him and worship him, something will happen in your life. You will smile when others around you are crying. This is the power of God.”

_Martin Luther King (Chicago, April 9, 1967)

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