Angel from Montgomery

            "Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground
             Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down

            "Make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry
             Make me a poster of an old rodeo
             Just give me one thing I that can hold on to
             To believe in this living is just a hard way to go

            "Has anybody here, seen my old friend Abraham?
             Can you tell me where he's gone?     

        Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. . . we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain---that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom---and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

             Has anybody here, seen my old friend Martin?
             Can you tell me where he's gone?

        . . . So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.  Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.  Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.  Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.  But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.  Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.  From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
        And when this happens and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual,  "Free at last!  Free at last! Free at last!  Thank God almighty, we are free at last!" *

             Has anybody here, seen my old friend John?
             Can you tell me where he's gone?

        . . . Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.  And yet the same revolutionary beliefs, for which our forbearers fought, are still at issue around the globe; the belief that the rights of man, come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. . . Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. . .  If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich . . . And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. . . knowing that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own.

             Has anybody here, seen my old friend Bobby?
             Can you tell me where he's gone?

        Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings.  He died in the cause of that effort.  In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.  For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling.  I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.  We have to make an effort in the United States.  We have to make an effort in the United States to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.  What we need in the United States is not division.  What we need in the United States is not hatred.  What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another.

        Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?"  I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?" ¹

             Freed a lot of people
             But it seems the good die young
             We just looked around and they're gone" ²

             So, make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry
             Paint me a picture of a death long ago
             Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
             To have no one to believe in, is just a hard way to go
             To have no one to believe in is just a... hard way to go" ³

        Where there is no vision, We The People of Planet Earth will perish.

             Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground
             Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down"

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Fund
Donate to the Washington D.C. Memorial Fund Here

American Foundation for the Blind

DEDICATED TO:  Rosa Parks, America's angel from Montgomery.  Also dedicated to American recording artists Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, who possess far better vision than most and to Irene Morgan, the first known African American to be arrested for refusing to give up a seat on a public bus.


Main body from the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, martyrs for the great cause of Human and Civil Rights; friends of justice, peace and freedom.

1. Spoken by Ted Kennedy, in a very sad and broken voice, quoting his brother Robert Kennedy in eulogy.  It is a very, very short list of American families that have given as much for our country as the Kennedy family, having lost among other family members to tragedy, one brother to the ravages of foreign war and two brothers to the war on our streets at home. Those who in their unpatriotic ignorance somehow find it necessary to criticize the Kennedy name should perhaps think three times over before doing so in the future.

2. From "Abraham, Martin and John" by Richard Holler, performed by Emmylou Harris And The Nash Ramblers; At The Ryman (1992) - recorded also by several others.

3. Based on "Angel From Montgomery" from an original concept by John Prine; John Prine (1971).  (Original wording altered for purposes of this chapter in botom quotation.)

4. Proverbs 29:18 (paraphrase).

5. From "Find The Cost Of Freedom" by Stephen Stills, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; 4-Way Street (1971).

*FootNote:  The United States of America has produced several noteworthy public orators, some of whom we cannot fairly compare against our modern radio/video knowledge.  Since there is no photographic or voice record of the speaking ability of those in the distant past, we are left to weigh their assumed proficiency against primarily, the content of their speech only. Of those in the modern era that we do have audio and/or video record of, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President John F. Kennedy stand out as two very capable public speakers. Nevertheless, even they fade into the public lectern background when compared to perhaps American history's greatest public orator, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Probably due to the as yet abiding prejudice of mainly 'White Anglo-Saxon Protestant' historians, President Lincoln's November 19th, 1863 Gettysburg Address, an arguably very good speech, continues to largely be viewed as of superior importance to the I Have A Dream speech of the August 28th, 1963 march on Washington D.C.  However, this particular public oration by Martin Luther King, Jr. stands out head-and-shoulders above any other well known American public verbal presentation and is perhaps in the top five of quality (and importance) in the known public speeches of World History, both in quality of content and competence of delivery. Anyone aspiring to what may rightly be considered the greatest art, that of positive persuasion by public oration, would do well to study the filmed record of this speech in depth many times. Perhaps one of the reasons that Martin Luther King, Jr. could speak so eloquently is that he truly believed from the heart the importance and content of his message; one is left immeasurably moved by the awe-inspiring presence of a totally dedicated human soul, from the heart and with singularity of purpose, coming straight at you.

[ Full text of Kennedy speeches quoted:  President John F. Kennedy January 20th, 1961 inaugural address --- Robert F. Kennedy April 4th, 1968 address upon King's assassination. ]


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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.

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