We Need A Moral Breakthrough: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II's Remarks to the URJ Biennial 2017

Inside Leadership

We Need A Moral Breakthrough: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II's Remarks to the URJ Biennial 2017

Reverend Barber addresses URJ Biennial 2017

This address was presented before the 74th Union for Reform Judaism Biennial convention on Wednesday, December 6. You can also download and print a PDF of this text.

Hello. Thank you. Shalom. 

To all of you, to my Jewish Bishop, Rabbi Jacobs. Rabbi Pesner, friend and brother who guided me in the NAACP when I was on the Board with Rabbi Saperstein. Amen. 

To my own personal Deborah, Rabbi Lucy Dinner. I thank God for her every day. 

Today has not been an easy day. A lot of things are going on. But your mercy, your grace, your love since we have been here has been so helpful. And I am honored to just be able to even stand in this space and to be with all of you, my brothers and sisters. 

Right now I am trying to take heed to what one of the psalmists said. There are lots of moving parts. God - Jehovah - is a present help in the time of trouble. Psalm 46 ends like this: “Be still and know that God is God.” I'm praying for that stillness in this moment. 

Tonight, standing in this grand tradition with you in your many, many years of service, I want to thank you on behalf of the world and the nation for all that this organization has done and continues to do.

Tonight I want to wrestle with you. I want to muse in public. I want to maybe even cry some and suggest that America needs a poor people's movement and a national call for a moral revival breakthrough. We need a Poor People's Campaign and a national call for a moral revival breakthrough. 

There are many hymns that we sing in this country. One of them says, “Oh, beautiful for pilgrims' feet whose stern impassioned stress, a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness. America, America, God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law." 

The next stanza says, "Oh, beautiful for glory-tale of liberating strife, when once or twice for man's avail, men lavished precious life. America, America.“

And the first one says, "God shed his grace on thee. America, America, may God thy gold refine until all success be nobleness and every gain is divine." 

The American project and the goal of true democracy with the promise of establishing justice and providing for the common defense and the promoting of the general welfare has not from the beginning nor now been an easy thing. This is why the poet hymnists in that hymn America, America pleaded for God's grace; called upon us as a nation not to be arrogant and to live in a sense of false exceptionalism.

But instead the hymn writer said we must be willing to admit and to mend our flaws. To move in self-control, not in rashness, not in political policymaking that is more about partisanism and more about ego than it is about honoring the most sacred principle of religion, and that is the protection of life. 

The hymn writer said there is no place for pride, for ego as a nation. In order to provide a liberty and an equal protection guaranteed in the law, we must work hard at this democracy. Whatever we do, we must hope that our success has a certain nobleness about it. And we must hope that our gain would never be merely about greed, but any gain for this nation would be rooted in that which gives glory to the divine purposes of God. 

Meeting these lofty and noble aspirations has been America's constant challenge. Dr. King once said of America as he spoke to her with great love as one of America's greatest patriots, he said, “Too often we have a high blood pressure of creeds and an amemia of deeds.”

From the beginning of this nation, even as we claimed all to be created equal, the nation exited the sin of genocide against Native Americans, ostracized poor white men and all women voting, and dehumanized black people through chattel slavery and designation as three-fifths of a person.

This nation has sometimes had the flaw in the midst of its fear of running to tribalism and nationalism that has at points in this history said we don't want you if you're Jewish. We don't want you if you're Polish. We don't want you if you're Irish. We don't want you if you're Latino. As though some how we could find answers by blaming other people for our problems. 

And in every situation, in every moment of history, many had to stand up, fight for a moral breakthrough and demand that America mend her flaws. Not because they were not patriotic, but because they were. They had to work to break through injustices to point to a better way.

Following a bloody war over the issue of slavery, blacks and poor whites in the South came together and began to move the nation forward on education and voting and equal protection. But then, my friends, in 1877 an unholy coalition was built between former slave holders and the greedy, and an American Presidential candidate in 1877 lost the popular vote, but was selected by the electoral college. I'm talking about 1877.

He was given the presidency on the promise that he would roll back Civil Rights legislation. That he would give the Supreme Court over to extremism. And the desire of those who wanted to return to white supremacy and white nationalism. 

In the face of this, African Americans, white women, Christians, Jews came together to breakthrough the injustice and demand that America mend her flaws. Their work under the umbrella of such organizations as the NAACP had to go on for years. In fact, less than five years after the founding of the NAACP, Americans placed another white supremacist in the White House named Woodrow Wilson. He was a Governor, a scholar. That does not keep one from being a white nationalist.

He was not necessarily one who did open hate, but his policies were hateful. One hundred years exactly to the date before Bannon was in the White House, Woodrow Wilson put Birth of a Nation in the White House, a movie that glorified the Klan and declared that they and their philosophy were the right vision for our nation. And in 1917, a confederate statue was commissioned in Charlottesville, not to pay homage to the Civil War, but to pay homage to Woodrow Wilson, and that white nationalists believed that once again they had their man in the White House. 

In the face of this, many black and white Jews and Christians had to come together, determined to breakthrough all the ugliness and fight for a better way. In the 1960s, we saw the tremendous power of a movement nonviolently challenge, expose, and seek to mend the flaws of America. From every creed and every color, they demanded Civil Rights and won. They demanded voting rights and won. They demanded the war on poverty, and won the beginning of such. They demanded the end to an unnecessary and unjust war, and eventually won. 

In fact, it was Rabbi Heschel in July of 1963, just before the March on Washington, who said as a Jewish Rabbi to a Catholic President, “Mr. President, we forfeit the right to worship God as a nation until we do right by the Negro and we do right for the cause of justice.”

We are here tonight, and 62 years ago would have been the fifth day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Today, when the prophetic actions of Rosa Parks like Shiphra and Puah in the Bible, chose to challenge the Pharaoh of Jim Crow. She sat down and birthed a movement on a stage that produced a prophet like Moses named Martin. She sparked a nonviolent revolution. 

Today, 50 years ago would be two days after Dr. King, a Jewish Federation and 25 others, including Caesar Chavez, called for a Poor People's Campaign that would address racism, poverty and militarism, because they all recognized that they had to be in their time part of a great tradition calling on America to mend every flaw, that they had to have a moral breakthrough.

They saw that patriotism is far more than blind allegiance. They understood faith had to be deeply rooted in the moral principles of justice, love, mercy, care for the stranger, and concern for life, as the highest value. They knew that America, like every nation, needed prophets rather than priests for the empire if a nation is ever going to repent and mend every flaw, if the nation's successes are ultimately going to be noble and divine. 

My brothers and my sisters, the American project has never been easy. It's always required moral discernment and dissent and, yes, at times, moral disruption of the forces of injustice.

Here we are once again in what Princeton Professor Nell Painter calls the call and response of American history. She says that this recent selection where a person gains the presidency through losing 3 million votes and openly running a campaign rooted in racism and fear and hate and xenophobia - she says as a scholar - it is the iconography of a too often familiar American reality, where we go through a period of moving forward, of mending flaws and ending inequality and injustice, and then there is a major push-back. This is not new. Don't let anybody tell you that the moment we are in now in America is new. It may have new players, but it is as old, as American as apple pie. 

But what is also as American as apple pie is those who believe in freedom and justice. 

Those who refuse to give up on the power of love. 

Those who realize that yes, this American project is hard! But we can never give up on the soul of this democracy. 

We cannot give up on the call of freedom, the call of love, and the call of justice. Instead, as those before us, we must breakthrough the forces of regressionism with a moral movement of transformation. That is why yesterday, standing with impacted people, denominational leaders, Christian and Jewish and Muslim activists, we launched the Poor People's Campaign, a national call for a moral revival, undergirded by the souls of poor folks co-auditing America since 1968, looking at where she is now since 1968 when it comes to systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war on our economy and our too-often distorted moral narrative. 

We can't hide behind the walls of apathy, the walls of fear, or even the walls of disgust at what we see going on. Instead, we must breakthrough and demand that America mend every flaw. 

Why must we have a moral movement that changes consciousness and culture? As somebody reminded me coming in today, there's a book that says, “culture will eat strategy alive.” If you don’t have moral imagination, you will never have moral implementation.

Why must we have a breakthrough? Because systemic poverty is a human invention and not a divine necessity. 

Deep poverty, that is having incomes below half the federal poverty level, has risen from 3.7 percent in 1975 to 5.8 percent in 2016. 

And to those who say that the war on poverty did not work, not only are they misrepresenting statistics, they are not telling the truth. The war on poverty was not lost. We left the field before it was won. 

There were 15 more poor people today than there were 50 years ago. 14 million children live below the poverty line. If you look at that through the lens of those at or below 200 percent of the poverty line, it is 30 million children. In 2016, over 4 million white children lived in poverty. Black children, 3.4 million. Latinos, 4.9 million. 

We had a Senator just yesterday say that poor people are simply spending their money on movies and drinks and women, and that's why we need to end the estate tax. That is not only contradictory to our constitution, for him to say that is contradictory to the scriptures. For I think it was Brother Isaiah who said, in Isaiah Chapter 10, verse one: Woe unto those who legislate evil and rob the poor of their rights, and to those who make women and children their prey. 250,000 people die every year as of a 2010 study done by the Mailman School of Public Health. 250,000 people die every year of low income, more than die of heart attacks, disease, diabetes, and cancer. The federal minimum wage remains at a poverty wage, and the federal minimum for tip workers is $2.13 an hour! 50 years after the Poor People's Campaign. 

There are 58.8 U.S. workers earning below $15 an hour, but we have 400 families that make an average of $97,000 an hour and we are locking up people who simply want $15 and a union. We should understand that poverty is not a problem of laziness. Working age adults account for most of the growth in the number of Americans living in poverty over the last 30 years. It is a sin to work 40 hours a week and not make a living wage, while corporations get corporate welfare. 

While the poverty rates are highest among African Americans and Latinos, in terms of percentage of race, white people actually make up the largest number of the country's poor: 17 million. Many times the poorest states are the ones that elect the most extreme politicians. Sometimes the poorest states elect the politicians that could not be elected anywhere else. Many of those get elected because of voter suppression, but then they use their power to hurt and oppress the very poor people that they fooled with their hate and their racism and their lies. 

We must have a moral breakthrough because more than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act that was worked on right in your offices. Signed in blood in your offices, but 50 years after the Voting Rights Act people of color still face barriers to democracy. In fact, we have less voting rights today than we had 52 years ago, on August 6, 1965, because section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been demolished. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that to end section 5 is like taking somebody’s umbrella away in the midst of a rainstorm.

And in the midst of this, we’ve seen some stuff long before this current president, the legislature - the Senate leaders, the current leadership in Congress - have blocked fixing the Voting Rights Act, since June 23, 2013, which actually means they have blocked fixing the Voting Rights Act for over 1700 days.

Put that in context. Strom Thurman only filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 24 hours. Boehner, Ryan, and McConnell have filibustered for more than 1700 days. According to the Brennan Center, 28 states have laws so bad, so bad that even the Roberts Court can't agree with it. Now, that's bad. When the Roberts court has to say that this law is surgical racism, when those who believe in voter suppression can't even agree with the voter suppresser, we have a problem, Houston, we have a problem, America. We have a problem, Boston. We need a moral Movement and a moral breakthrough. 

The criminalization of poverty points to the fact that we need a moral breakthrough. Spending 7.5 billion on prisons this year. It has been up since 1976. Going up and up and up. In 1968 we had 180,000 people of all races in prison. Today, over 5 million. More than China. And China has 2 billion more people than us. I'm telling you, we need a moral breakthrough. 

When we look at the increased scapegoating of immigrants and how we are putting all this money in border control rather than putting the money into fixing immigration reform. How we are willing to turn our children away. A few weeks ago I walked into the middle of the Rio Grande River with three families. A group of us, we walked to the middle and saw that a family from Mexico could meet us in the middle. They said if we didn't go across the middle they would allow them to touch their family. There was a woman there who had not seen her children for 16 years. We put on trash bags. We walked through the mud. Got to the middle of the Rio Grande and her children came from the other side and they gave her three minutes. Three minutes. Three minutes to say hello. 

We need a moral breakthrough. Since the height of the Vietnam War, the gap between Uncle Sam's military and anti-poverty spending has gone out of whack. Today the spending gap is nearly four to one. Fifty-four cents of every discretionary dollar is going towards military spending. Not good jobs. Not healthcare. It was a Republican named Eisenhower who warned us of the military industrial complex. And I think it was Dr. King who said, any nation that has ultimately makes all of its decisions based on military is slowly becoming an empire and not a democracy. 

Disadvantaged communities here and abroad pay the highest price for this militarism. The poorest 30 percent of US communities suffered 36 percent of the casualties in Vietnam, but 38 percent of the casualties in the Iraq war. That's not even including all of the innocent people killed by the hundreds of thousands. We need a moral breakthrough. 

Climate change. Children are being exposed to high levels of lead from drinking water and other sources. This risk falls heavily on African Americans and Latinos but also poor whites. It’s causing all kinds of problems with their health. Those who have contributed the least to climate change are suffering the most. Low income families and people of color tend to be more likely to have living conditions and jobs that increase the health risks of extreme heat. They also get hit hardest by natural disasters because of barriers. Think about it. We just had major hurricanes hit the south. All of the southern states except one denied Medicaid expansion. What people need right now is Medicaid. Expansion. What people need to come back from the hurricanes is living wages. 

Then we have this tax plan. I don't even call it a Republican tax plan because my grand-daddy was a Republican and he didn't think like this. He was a Lincoln Republican, a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. This is a moral abomination. 

And the claim of cuts is scarcity, but we do not have a scarcity of money. We found $6 trillion to put in wars we never should have gone into in the first place. What we have is a scarcity of moral will, we have greed run amok. We have an abundance of resources that could end poverty for everyone. Extreme leaders now propose to give billions in tax breaks to the wealthy. In fact, my Jewish brothers and sisters, you should know this. We have not seen this kind of transfer of wealth on the backs of the poorest since slavery.

You have to go all the way back to the amount of money that was transferred from the free labor of slavery to understand and to see the depth of what is going on right now. People are getting hurt. People getting hurt reminds me, Rabbi, I hang out with so many of your prophets.

One of them I was hanging out with the other day, Ezekiel. And in the 22nd chapter of Ezekiel - I can't do it in Hebrew - but in the translation it says, “Your politicians have become like wolves, like rabies infested wolves who know nothing to do but to devour the poor and devour the weak and devour the stranger.” Within Ezekiel it says, but what’s even sadder, is that the preachers are covering up for the politicians. Laying hands on them, if you will, in the oval office and approving and sanctioning their greed. Then Ezekiel asks a question: “Can I find somebody who will stand in the gap?”

We are in a time that we have not seen. We have to understand that this tax cutting goes all the way back to the days after slavery when the first tax cuts were cried for to undermine the ability of the country to fix what had happened through slavery. That was when the first tax cuts were called for. 

The second great time tax cuts were called for was at the end of the Civil Rights Era and the beginning of the war on poverty. Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and others like them, white nationalists, have always had a strategy. They want to cut taxes to the government because in their mind government programs go to help people that shouldn't be helped in the first place.

What is tragic, is that the states that are the poorest are the ones that get hurt the most. And the people that get hurt the most by these cuts in terms of raw numbers are actually white.

Somewhere I read, my brothers and sisters, that the love of money is the root of all evil. When you can get up in the morning and feel good about cutting healthcare even though you know thousands of people will die, not because Jehovah or God called them home, but because a Congressman cut their healthcare. The love of money is the root of all evil.

And so, my friends, I have been traveling the country for the last two years, going all around. It has become clear that people are ready to come together and demand change.

I have heard from mothers whose children died because their states refused Medicaid and we cried together.

I met with homeless families whose encampments have been attacked by police and militia groups.

I visited the border wall and met with families ripped apart by unjust immigration policies.

Earlier this year we had a mass meeting in Compton that drew hundreds of people from all walks of life. It was simultaneously translated into Spanish, Korean, and Armenian. And at the end of the meeting, a lifelong welfare rights and anti-poverty organizer, Miss Martha, approached us with tears in her eyes. She said, “I have been waiting for this movement for 50 years. I have been waiting for us to talk about the poor openly, to not just keep saying those trying to make it in the middle class, or to not say that the poor are in problems because they are immoral.” She said, “I have been waiting.”

And my brothers, it's time for a moral breakthrough. I want you to know, as I conclude, that this campaign is not about a single party or saving a party. It is about an agenda. It is about saving the soul of America. It is about challenging the evils of systemic racism, the war economy, ecological terrorism, these forces that have been tearing the country apart long before Trump. He just played into the fear.

I was with people the other day from West Virginia, Virginia, DC, and Maryland, and they said this: “This is a matter of life and death. People are dying.” Another lady said, “I'm in this movement because too many friends and families die. It is not okay. Enough is enough.”

It is not enough. A Muslim brother said, “If we see injustice we must change it with our hands. If we can't, we must say it with our tongues, if not that we must hate it with our hearts. But knowing that just hating it with your hearts and not working to change it with your hands is the weakest form of faith.” The weakest form of faith. 

Another one said to us, “If we don’t do this work, God may forgive us, but history won't.”

And so, we need moral analysis that goes deep, that helps this nation own that we've always struggled with these flaws. In every generation we’ve needed some moral articulation to speak out against these flaws, either from our deepest faith traditions or deepest constitutional traditions. But silence is not an option, also we need moral activism. We are required sometimes not just to dissent but to disrupt what is disruptive. Not with hate, no. With revolutionary love. We must love this nation enough to take a knee and to call this nation to the knee of repentance. 

We must love this nation enough to stand between the ICE agent who has been ordered to do wrong and the immigrant neighbor who just wants to do right.

We must love this democracy enough to go to jail for it in nonviolent civil disobedience, to sue in the courts for it and to register everybody we know to vote at the ballot box for it.

We must demand a moral agenda! An agenda that says there are issues that are not about left versus right and Republican versus Democrat, pro-labor, anti-poverty, anti-racist policy are moral issues.

Living wages and guaranteed income for the poor are moral issues.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels and guaranteeing labor rights and affordable housing, these are moral issues.

Fair policies for immigrants are moral issues.

And critiquing war mongering, that undermine not only our moral standing but undermine our ability to address domestic issues, are moral issues.

Equality and education by guaranteeing and ensuring that every child receives a high quality well-funded, constitutional, and diverse public education with access to community college and university, that's a moral issue! 

I love the Affordable Care Act, but we need healthcare for everybody as a moral issue! 

Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system against black, brown, poor white people and fighting the proliferation of guns and the unholy alliance that the NRA has on our policies, those are moral issues. 

Expanding voting rights, not only stopping voter suppression but saying that if you have to be registered for war at 18, you have to be automatically be registered to vote at 18. Moral issues. Women's rights, that's a moral issue. LGBTQ rights, that's a moral issue. And equal protection under the law is nonnegotiable. That is a moral issue! 

That's why we have launched the Poor People's Campaign, a national call for a moral revival.

Forty days of action in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Not for one rally but a season. We are organizing, from the bottom, a thousand people, all different races, creeds, and colors, from 25 states and the District of Columbia that are willing to engage in simultaneous civil disobedience in state capitals where so much damage is being done, and in the offices of the speaker of the house and the Senate Pro Tem leader. 

A season, beginning right after Mother's Day, with the focus being on ending child poverty.

And then, not only are we talking about a season of civil disobedience, but building power among the millions of poor people. Having them be engaged not for them, but with them, and registering people to vote, especially the poor.

We must build a campaign not a commemoration. We don't need another commemoration about what happened. The only thing we need are re-imaginations. So we can't give up on this democracy. Your psalm says, “the stone that the builder rejected have become the chief cornerstone.” I believe the stones in this, those of us who know rejection like black people, Jewish people, poor people, gay people, and Native Americans, when we come together, we are told the stones that were rejected can become the chief cornerstone of a new democracy. 

I was hanging out the other day with Jeremiah.  

Jeremiah said, “You know what God told me in my day when I was dealing with a narcissist who loved to build towers and loved to put his names on the towers?” 

I was talking to Jeremiah. He said, God told me in Jeremiah 22, “God said go down to the palace.” Jeremiah said -- he didn't say send a tweet. 

He didn't say send an email, he didn't say pray for them. He said go down to the palace and tell them to stop hurting the poor, tell treat the stranger right. Remember when they were strangers. Tell them to care for the least of these and tell them to stop passing policies that murder people. 

So, my brothers and sisters, some say we get our inspiration from Dr. King, and that's true, and some say we get our inspiration from other Movements, and that's true. I'll tell you how I know that this is what we have to do. Because as I said, I have been in the Biblical chat room hanging out with these prophets. I was in there a few months ago and I read something with one of them, over 2,000 years ago. He too faced the ego narcissistic, greedy king who was put up in office by other nations getting involved.  

It's in y'all's book, you know. I just read it. 

His name was Jeroboam II, he was a vasile of some other countries and they put him in office, and they got greedy and started putting the taxes on the poor. And he loved to build things. So he built a little something for Jehovah and something for the other Gods. God called this farmer boy named Amos. That's what they told me in the chat room. Amos has laid out for us what you have to do in every generation to have a breakthrough.

I read it and I leave you with it. It's in Amos chapter five and goes like this: People hate this kind of talk. I'm reading from a message, English translation. Raw truth is never popular, but here it is bluntly spoken. Because as a nation you run roughshod over the poor, and because you take bread right out of their mouths, you are never going to move into your luxurious homes you built. You never as a nation will truly enjoy and drink wine from the expensive vineyards that you planted because I, God, know precisely the extent of your violations. I know the enormity of your sins. Let me tell you what your sins are as a nation. You bully right living people. You think all that matters is power. You take bribes from the right and the left. You kick poor people when they are down. Justice seems like a lost cause. Evil is epidemic. Decent people are starting to throw up their hand and say what's the use? What is the use? Then God says, in verse 14: I need a remnant. I don't need everybody. Maybe if I could get 25,000, a thousand in every state and 2500 in District of Columbia, I'm just saying.

I need a remnant that will seek good and not evil, and live. I need a remnant that will say, you talk about the God bless America? God bless your nation? God being your best friend? Amos says live like it, and maybe that will happen. How do you live like it as a nation? Hate evil, stop oppressing, love good. Care for the poor. And work it out not at the altar but in the public square. And then maybe, maybe, maybe the God of the angel armies will notice the remnant and be gracious to the nation when it sees the nation repairing its flaws. 

Then, Verse 16 says: Now, this is God's message to those who hear what to do. I need a remnant that will go out into the streets and lament, not just cry but lament loudly. I need a group of people who will fill up the malls and fill up the shops with the cries of doom. I need people who just for a season, Rabbi Saperstein, will empty the factories, the stores, the workplaces and enlist everybody in a lament because what is going on in your nation? People ought to be in tears! The hearts ought to be broken. Consciousness ought to be stirred. And then God says through Amos, “I want to hear you crying loud! And when I hear a cry in the street, then I will come help you.” Could it be that God can't move until we move?

Oh, can I be a preacher for just a second? 

Could it be that God can't do everything God wants to do until God hears his people crying over the state of the nation? See his people willing to disrupt this injustice. 

And could it be that if we move, not all of us, just a remnant, just those who are not willing to give up, just those who don't ever go around saying this is the era of Trump? No man has an era. This is the era of God, the Lord, the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof and all them that dwell therein. Hallelujah.

Could it be that if we move, brother Jacobs, brother processor, in God will give us power and God will give mercy to our efforts? Could it be that there must be the power of a moral ,ovement in order to have a breakthrough that leads this nation not only to repentance but restorative justice and Sabbath economics?

I believe I listen to Amos. It's time for a breakthrough. We need a breakthrough. We've got to make the media stop following the tweets and the shiny objects.

We need a breakthrough and bring attention to the poor and stop suffering the attention violence, where we don't even look at the faces of the poor.

We need a breakthrough that can breakthrough the 10 billion pornographic dollars, sums of money that are poured into our election.

We need a breakthrough that will breakthrough the money and breakthrough the silence and breakthrough the bad theology.

We need a breakthrough, through the hate and xenophobia and turning us one against the other, a breakthrough until every child is educated and cared for.

We need a breakthrough until the sick receive healthcare and are healed.

We need a breakthrough until the poor are lifted and not pushed down.

We need a breakthrough until the voting rights are secured.

We need a breakthrough until nonviolence is the norm as opposed to violence, and men turn their swords and their plow shares into pruning hooks.

We need a breakthrough because we want a democracy that protects the rights of everyone. 

We want a democracy where we are truly one nation, indivisible. One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

We want a democracy where all of God's children are seen as special and loved as important, and we want a democracy where a President doesn't stand up or a senator and say I and I alone can fix it because that is idolatry, that is the sin of the Garden of Eden and we want a democracy.

We want a democracy where leaders understand that they operate under the hand of God and God resisted the proud.

We want a democracy where the powerful seek to serve and not be served.

And my brothers in order for that to be possible we must have a breakthrough, the rejected have to lead the revival.

We need a Movement not for the poor but with the poor. The broken must lead us to a breakthrough.

We may not change everything next year, but there will never be any change unless poor people and moral leaders and people of conscious stand together. That's why we are launching the Movement and not ending the Movement.

I'll tell you, my brothers and sisters, I've gone to many grave sites.

William Lord Garrison, dead.

Frederick Douglass, dead.

Harriet Tubman, dead.

Rosa Parks, dead.

Lucretia Mott, the Quaker sister, dead.

Rabbi Heschel, dead.

Martin Luther King, dead.

Gandhi, dead.

James Reed, dead.

But we are their children. We are yet alive and we are here to build a moral movement.

I would rather join with you and die trying to change the moral direction of this nation than to live and die and it be written on my epitaph, “Lived in the time when moral dissent was necessary. And he, and they, said nothing.”

I would rather die than to say nothing, because I know Amos said that if we say something and God hears us crying, God will help us! I believe it!

America Needs a moral breakthrough and it only will happen if we stand up together and make it happen. And if we do, God, God, God, will be on our side. 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II is president of Repairers of the Breach, national co-chair of the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign, and leads an alliance of more than 200 progressive organizations best known as “Moral Monday.” This coalition has led justice work in North Carolina for a decade and inspired organizing across the nation. The Washington Post called Barber’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention “the most engaging” of many strong ones. Moral Monday is a multi-racial, multi-faith movement fighting for voting rights, public education, universal healthcare, environmental protection, and the rights of women, labor, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community. In 2013, thousands joined weekly protests at the North Carolina state legislature; more than a thousand were arrested in civil disobedience. On February 2, 2014, USA Todayreported 80,000 at the Mass Moral March on Raleigh, and that annual gathering of the Moral Monday coalition continues to draw tens of thousands each year And in 2015 reportedly over 100,000 returned to the streets of Raleigh for the annual Moral March on Raleigh. For the past two years, Rev. Dr. Barber has led a national organizing tour called “The Revival: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values,” working alongside Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell to redefine public morality and support state coalitions to address poverty, injustice, and inequality. Rev. Dr. Barber headed the state NAACP from 2006 to 2017 and serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors. He is currently co-organizing a Poor People’s Campaign in 2018 continuing the work Dr. Martin Luther King launched but did not live to lead. Rev. Dr. Barber graduated from North Carolina Central University, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University, and a doctorate from Drew University. He is Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary and the author of Forward Together: A Moral Vision for the Nation and The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics and the Rise of a New Justice Movement. He is a member of the College of Affirming Bishops and lives in Goldsboro, N.C. where he has pastored Greenleaf Christian Church for 25 years. He is married and has five children.

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