King’s last sermon, “Drum Major Instinct,” was given in Atlanta on 4 February 1968. Rev. King concluded the sermon by imagining his own funeral which was two months in the future, downplaying his famous achievements and emphasizing his heart to do right.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.
If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, If I can spread the message as the master taught, Then my living will not be in vain.
Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.
To read the full text of the speech: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_the_drum_major_instinct/
Tomorrow, This Author’s Pen Rita Bay
All to often, Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered for his civil rights activities. First, however, he was a Baptist minister who found the strength to pursue his destiny through his faith in God. In one of his sermons, MLK spoke about his death only two months before his assassination. Today and tomorrow, check out excerpts of MLK’s last sermon, “Drum Major Instinct.”
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator—that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Tomorrow, another excerpt. Rita Bay