That question sounds rude, but it’s one Martin Luther King poses, in a way, with the quote below. And since today is his day in the U.S., it’s a good moment to consider our own great principles and the manner in which we will stand up for right. Also a good moment to consider his very fine speeches as compared with some of the meaningless pap we get today.
You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you’re afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand…Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You refused to stand up for justice.
From the sermon “But, If Not” delivered November 5, 1967 at Ebenezer Baptist Church.by