Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends,
that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history,
there is such a thing as being too late.
Procrastination is still the thief of time.
Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected
with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men
does not remain at flood—it ebbs.

This is a short, contiguous excerpt from the Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech given by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York, NY. I have taken the liberty of arranging the excerpt as a poem. The title comes from later in the same paragraph as the selection.

Lyn, my dear wife, and I recently participated in reading this speech during a Connecticut “Veterans for Peace” commemoration. It is a beautifully written document: reasoned, passionate, humble, and deeply spiritual—one of the most insightful and compelling the Reverend ever gave.

What is most important is that it is just as relevant today as it was on the day it was given. The entire text of the speech can be found here. I hope you have the chance to read it in full.

Thank you for reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken near the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.


Filed under Poetry

4 responses to “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”

  1. As a veteran of the Vietnam era, I asked myself countless times why were we in Afghanistan for 20 years? The sad answer is…to repeat history.

    • Oh, I agree, I agree! First the English, then the Russians. As Winston Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

      But it is not just the difficulty of the task that was not understood, it was the sheer folly of it.