Heroes & Villains
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Letter to U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, from the US government, 5 April 1968
(Catalogue ref: FCO 7/865)

THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
TO THE UNITED NATIONS
April 5, 1968

His Excellency
U Thant
Secretary General
United Nations, New York

Dear Mr. Secretary General:

On behalf of the entire Government and people of the United States I wish to express our heartfelt appreciation of your tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on receiving the news of his shocking death, and the honor you have paid to his memory by designating Under Secretary Ralph Bunche as your personal representative at his funeral.

Permit me also to take this opportunity to express, through you, our thanks for the many expressions of grief from leading United Nations personalities at the loss of this great human being.

In his short life Dr. King became a world figure and an example to many millions who deeply believe in the equality of all mankind and in the spirit of brotherhood and non-violence- a spirit which he bravely exemplified to his dying hour. His death is a cause of sorrow to people of good will in every nation- but of a double sorrow in America, first because the great man who is lost was also a great American, and second because of the violent and shameful act that took his life. The statements and actions of the President and Senate of the United States attest to the depth of our national grief.

Many memorials will certainly be proposed to Martin Luther King, Jr. But the most fitting memorial is surely that we all rededicate ourselves to the purposes for which he lived and died: the redressing of ancient wrongs; the effort to rouse every conscience from complacency in the presence of injustice; and the unwavering faith that just ends can be achieved by peaceful and non-violent means These purposes must rule all our hearts if the peace to which the United Nations is dedicated is ever to be built.

In this hour of mourning we must all reconsecrate ourselves to the full realization of these high principles for which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life.

I would appreciate it if this letter, expressing the deep sorrow of my Government, could be recorded in the archives of the United Nations as a document.

Very sincerely yours,

Arthur J. Goldberg