“When the world is ready, the hero will come, when the hero is ready, the world will follow.” These words, spoken about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Dr. Vincent Harding this past Thursday Jan. 19, 2011, set the tone of the Hennebach Lecture as part of the Delta Days celebration..
Harding knew King well during the final years of King’s life, serving as his speech writer and confidante from 1958-1968. Harding’s time with King inspired Harding to write his book, “An Inconvenient Hero,” detailing his experiences with the equal rights leader.
It was in this book that Harding discussed how he drafted King’s speech “A Time to Break Silence” that voiced King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and was given April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death. This opposition to the war is one side of King that is not well known. After he gave the speech, King was widely criticized by the media for meddling in affairs in which he should not be involved. Harding spoke to this, saying that while they did expect the backlash, they did not expect the severity that actually took place. Yet they did not back down, and Harding defended his leader, saying, “[King] said what he did because he loved this country enough to critique it.”
During the lecture, an eight person panel of both students and adults asked Harding questions about his book and his time with King. Harding then continued by offering his opinion on what communities such as Mines can do to preserve and uphold diversity.
“Before being scientists and engineers, we are all human beings together. We, the people, have the task first of all creating a more perfect union. That is our job,” said Harding. “People are meant to lead, not to wait for a king to tell them what to do.”