As we mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this opinion piece by Paul Kengor in The Washington Post explores speeches made at the wall 50 years ago by America's leading civil rights hero, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kengor notes that King's speech is usually overlooked, but describes how he used a discussion of the civil rights struggle in the United States to make parallels with East Germans and East Berliners in a way calculated to slide past the Communist party watchers and be understood by his audience east of the wall.
We've probably no way of knowing how many East Germans began to think about the freedom they deserved and were being denied by their own government and its leader, the Soviet Union. But it stands to reason that the same message preaching the elimination of hate, the elevation of the oppressed, and the dignity of all humanity that prevailed against segregation in the American South would not have fallen on deaf ears in the German East. In proclaiming the freedom necessary for all people and the opportunities such freedom must require in order to be real, King may have taken the first blow to the Wall, twenty-five years before it fell and barely three years after it was built.
But then, oppression almost always carries the seeds of its own destruction.