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Home » Martin Luther King’s Sermon: The Drum Major Instinct (Transcript)

Martin Luther King’s Sermon: The Drum Major Instinct (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermon titled “The Drum Major Instinct” which was preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968.

The sermon discusses the drum-major instinct, using the biblical story of James and John as a starting point. The speaker explores how the desire for recognition and importance is a basic instinct in all humans and can often lead to destructive behavior. The sermon also highlights how the drum-major instinct can cause people to live above their means and engage in activities solely for the purpose of gaining attention. Ultimately, the speaker emphasizes the importance of harnessing this instinct and avoiding exclusivism and snobbish behavior.

Listen to the audio version here:


This morning I would like to use as a subject from which to preach: The Drum-Major Instinct… the drum-major instinct.

And our text for the morning is taken from a very, very familiar passage in the tenth chapter, as recorded by Saint Mark. Beginning with the thirty-fifth verse of that chapter, we read these words, “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto Him, saying, ‘Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.” And He said unto them, “What would ye that I should do for you?” They said unto Him, “Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory.”

But Jesus said unto them, “Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” And they said unto Him, “We can.” And Jesus said unto them, “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized. But to sit on My right hand, and on my Left hand, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”

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