(Martin Luther King Jr. in Harlem, December 1964, his first speech upon his return from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway):
"This has been a marvelous…week in my life….I’ve been so moved by experiences that I had in Europe, meeting hundreds and thousands of people of good will. And so I tell you, my friends, for the last ten days I’ve been on a literal mountaintop, having transfiguring experiences.
Oh, we’ve had the privilege of meeting and talking with kings and queens, meeting and talking with prime ministers of nations, meeting and talking with the humble people of the land. I would love to stay here, because it’s a marvelous mountain.
And I can tell you that it does mean a little something, because I do live almost every day under the threat of death and it is a fit contrast to have people saying nice things about you. It would be nice if I could stay up here. I wish I could stay on this mountaintop. For it isn’t the ususal pattern of my life to have people saying nice things about me. Oh, this is a marvelous mountaintop. I wish I could stay here tonight.
But the valley calls me.
(Audience: laughter and applause.)
I wish I could stay here tonight. I wish I could stay on this great mountain of transfiguration that has come to me over these last ten days, but there are some nine-hundred-and-seventy-odd [thousand] of my black brothers and sisters down in the state of Mississippi, most of whom can’t register and vote. I’ve got to go back to the valley, my friends!
(Audience: cheering and applause.)
I wish I could stay here. I would love to continue to pass through the lines and meet the great people of the world. But, oh, there are some humble people down in the valley. Their little children are born everyday and clouds of inferiority are floating in their little mental skies because they don’t think they’re anybody. And somebody’s got to give them hope. I’ve got to go back to the valley and try to give them a little hope.
I wish I could stay on this mountaintop tonight. I wish the last ten days could somehow be stretched out ad infinitum, but somehow, something reminds me, millions and millions of God’s children–and many of them are white–are caught in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society, and because of my concern for humanity I’ve got to go back to the valley and try to help them! I wish I could stay here tonight.
(Audience: "yeah!", applause)
Oh, if I could stay here tonight that would be one thing, but the valley calls me. And there are those who need hope. There are those who need to find a way out. And so I thank you for allowing me to be on the mountaintop. I want to thank Oslo for allowing me to be on the mountaintop for a few days. But I’ve got to go back to the valley.
As I go back to this valley I go back with a faith, and it isn’t a weak faith. Oh, I say to you tonight, my friends, that I’m not speaking as one who has never seen the burdens of life. I’ve had to stand so often amid the chilly winds of adversity, staggered by the jostling winds of persecution. I’ve had to stand so often amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But I go back with a faith. It is a faith that evil triumphant is somehow weaker than right defeated. I go back with a faith that truth crushed to earth will rise again. I go back with a faith that the mills of the gods grind slowly but exceedingly fine. I go back with a faith that you shall reap what you sow. And with this faith I go back to the valley.
–Martin Luther King Jr.
(in Harlem, December 1964, his first speech upon his return from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.)