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Excerpts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I've Been to the Mountaintop' speech


Finally today, it is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. He would have been 93 years old. And while the holiday is officially celebrated on Monday, we didn't want to leave you today without letting you hear some of Reverend King's words. On April 3, 1968, just one day before he was murdered, King gave his famous "Mountaintop" speech. He talks about the long road ahead for civil rights. In this passage, King gets specific, talking about an injunction that had been filed to prevent him from protesting in Memphis. But he says that wouldn't stop him, and that in past protests, he had faced worse, like jail.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR: And every now and then we'd get in jail, and we'd see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn't adjust to. And so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer. And we won our struggle in Birmingham.

MARTIN: King uses that victory to argue why it's important to keep fighting for civil rights, that American democracy was at stake.


KING: If I lived in China or even Russia or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there.

MARTIN: Protesting for what's right, King said, would take work. He then concluded with these prophetic words,


KING: Like anybody, I would like to live. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.

MARTIN: That was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. giving his acclaimed speech, "I've Been To The Mountaintop." Today is his birthday. He would have been 93. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.