University of Rochester

Anniversary of Anti-War Sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. is Commemorated

March 27, 2007

Forty years after it was first given, Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech "Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" will be remembered and recreated in a special event on April 4 featuring a collective reading at the University of Rochester.

This sermon, which he gave at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on April 30, 1967, constitutes a compressed version of the one given at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was killed. In both statements, identical in substance, King called for a "true revolution of values" that would question the fairness and justice of American policies both internally and abroad.

"Dr. King argued that civil rights and peace are inseparable and mutually supportive causes," explains Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio, associate professor of Italian and promoter of the program. "In this text, as timely now as it was then, he delivers a universal message of justice and peace that transcends all races, faiths, and nationalities."

More than 30 students, faculty, staff, and community members have volunteered to take turns reading the sermon. Besides the public reading, the program will include a multi-media presentation of photographs; live music from the 1960s let by folks singers and songwriters Jeanne McDougall, a 1991 alumna of the University of Rochester, and Bob Zentz of Virginia; vocal performances by the University of Rochester Gospel Choir and by Natalie Burke, a 2006 graduate of the University; and a peace vigil led by student members of Nonviolent on Campus.

The 40th anniversary commemoration of the "Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" sermon will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, in the Interfaith Chapel on the University's River Campus, with a musical prelude starting at 5:15 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

The program is sponsored by the College Diversity Roundtable, the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity, the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies, the Department of History, the Department of English, Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges, Catholic Newman Community, the John Henry Cardinal Newman Chair of Roman Catholic Studies, the Protestant Chapel Community, Nonviolent on Campus, Rochester Center for Community Leadership, and Church of Love Faith Center. For more information, contact (585) 275-4085.