“I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 3, 1968


Dr. King on Life and Death


For these last three days of February, and to end our Kectil module studying the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we want to focus on his reflections on life and death. As you know, Dr. King packed an extraordinary life into 39 years. He studied, became an intellectual and scholar, married, had four children, changed the social structure in the United States, influenced people throughout the world and led a social movement on non-violence and equality for all that still leads people today, 50 years after his assassination. His life was often threatened. He received death threats by mail, in person and was attacked on numerous occasions, which led him to reflect on life and death.

On April 3, 1968, one day before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave his famous speech titled “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” He talked about whether he was ready to die. He said:


Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top. And I don’t mind…. I would like to live a long life-longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now…[He’s] allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so, I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.


Dr. King was at peace with death because he knew he had started in motion a social movement that was strong enough to go on without him. And of course, it has. He had seen his goals accomplished.

This message speaks loudly to youth. As you mature, it will be important to consider, “What is my goal, and how will I know when it has been accomplished?”.  When will I reach peace knowing “I have reached my mountain top?”

Please contemplate these lessons as you plan your own life. It is important to live a “purposeful” intentional life that has a goal and a meaning. Youth is the perfect time to sort out your thoughts and direction. And as we have said in The Kectil Program, the goal is to leave the world a little better off because you were born.