“Isness” –vs- “Oughtness”

AUTHOR: | POSTED: January 18, 2011 | COMMENTS: None Yet - Post a Comment
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Carolyn Savage

On December 10, 1964, Martin Luther King was the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  In his acceptance speech he talked about our need to rise above what “is”  in our lives and instead strive to work towards what “ought” to be.  Below is an excerpt from his acceptance speech.

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”

Martin Luther King, December 10, 1964

As each of us faces the challenges of our daily lives, are we helplessly accepting and surrendering to our “isness”?  Or are we striving towards potential “oughtness”?  Perhaps it is a question that we need to ask often, in order to motivate ourselves to work towards making this world a better place!

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