Speaking to tens of thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on Saturday (08/24/13), EMU grad Michael Shank cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s abhorrence of U.S.-sponsored violence around the world.
In a two-minute speech marking the 50th anniversary of King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Shank reminded the crowd that on April 4, 1967, King gave an address that called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” with specific reference to its military role in Vietnam.
Shank drew a parallel between King’s concerns for the Vietnamese to the present-day “destruction we are doing to Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Somalis, Libyans and Pakistanis — and more.”
However, Shank noted that King had hope for the United States, as evinced by these words of his:
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood. We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.
Shank supplemented the King quotes with some powerful ones uttered by Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy.
Robert Kennedy, Shank said, decried “a rising level of violence” in the 1960s, tolerated by a society that makes it easy “for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.” Almost sounding like a pacifist, Robert added, “This much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.”
In a similar vein, John F. Kennedy said in a university commencement speech: “What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living…”
“Too many of us think it is impossible,” JFK continued. “Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable – that mankind is doomed – that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man.”
Shank’s speech was recorded by C-SPAN and can be heard on YouTube. A slightly longer version of his speech, titled “March on Washington: Greatest Purveyor of Violence Is Still America,” can be read on The Huffington Post.
Shank (undergrad class of ’96) earned his master’s degree in conflict transformation from EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in 2005. He then completed a PhD at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. He is now director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C.
Shank is a prolific writer, whose socio-political analyses can be followed on his website, www.michaelshank.tv. He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, FOX News, US News and World Report, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Washington Times, Christian Science Monitor, Politico, Roll Call, The Hill, and The Huffington Post. Shank frequently appears as a commentator on FOX News, CCTV News, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, Current TV, CTV News, and the Voice of America’s Pashto, Dari, Urdu and Somali services.
Shank is the son of an EMU alum, Lois Shank Gerber ’66, and has two alumni-siblings: Kris Shank Zehr ’92 and Karl Shank ’93.