You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle for freedom and justice.
Now in this struggle for freedom and justice, there are many constructive things that we all can do and that we all must do. And we must not give ourselves to those things which will not solve our problems.
You’ve heard the word “nonviolent” and you’ve heard the word “violent.” I happen to believe in nonviolence. We’ve struggled with this method with young people and adults alike all over the south. And we have won some significant victories. And we’ve got to struggle with it all over the north because the problems are as serious in the north as they are in the south.
But I believe as we struggle with these problems, we’ve got to struggle with them with a method that can be militant but at the same time does not destroy life or property.
And so our slogan must not be “Burn, baby, burn,” it must be “Build, baby, build.” Organize, baby, organize.
Yes, our slogan must be “Learn, baby, learn” so that we can earn, baby, earn.
And with a powerful commitment, I believe that we can transform dark yesterdays of injustice into bright tomorrows of justice and humanity. Let us keep going toward the goal of selfhood, toward the realization of the dream of brotherhood, and toward the realization of the dream of understanding and goodwill. Let nobody stop us.
I close by quoting once more the man that the young lady quoted, that magnificent black bard who is now passed on, Langston Hughes. One day, he wrote a poem entitled, “Mother to Son.” The mother didn’t always have her grammar right, but she uttered words of great symbolic profundity.
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
Well, life for none of us has been a crystal stair. But we must keep moving. We must keep going.
If you can’t fly, run.
If you can’t run, walk.
If you can’t walk, crawl,
but by all means, keep moving!”