28 August 1963
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.
Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.
This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice.
In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.