Now, just because a body doesn’t have a diploma from Harvard
Don’t mean he’s never read a goddamn speech.
High-falutin’ words are all well and good,
And I do not discount the value of inspiration,
Even as it relates to perspiration, but I tell you this;
Your red-hot flamethrowers can shout about justice and integrity
To a mostly empty chamber, and they can feel mighty proud
Of themselves as they sit in some overstuffed chair
Back at the Yale Club, but all those golden declarations
And lofty phrases cannot deliver the goods.
They said I turned my back on the poor—hell, more than that,
Sold the Negro right down the river, if you believe what the liberals,
Sittin’ all cozy in their Upper West Side apartments, will tell you.
Well, they’ve never walked a mile in my shoes,
Never lived with Mexican kids who couldn’t go to school
For more than a couple months at a time—hell, if at all,
Because there were cabbages and cotton to pick,
And that couple of dollars a day was the only thing between
The ability to stay in those shacks sittin’ hard by the sewers
Drainin’ right into the Pedernales and flat-out roughin’ it.
Let me ask you, were ideals gonna put dinner on the table?
Was some speech gonna keep rain from comin’ through the roof?
Your Georgetown set would have you believe that justice
Would sweep over the South like some great wave
That would magically transform everything in its path.
That is not how change works, friend; it comes about
Through votes and deals and twisting arms, and it is
A long slog through the swamp—step, step, stop to catch your breath
And then another couple of steps, and those genteel types
Who spend all their time reading books instead of men
Will sink under the lilies and pond scum
As soon as they take a step off of solid ground.
I thought I was a dead man back in ’56, you know;
When you feel like someone dropped an anvil on your chest
And then proceeds to sit on top of it…well, I always wanted
To meet my maker, but I wasn’t in that big of a hurry.
Besides, there was work to be done, and I was bound and determined
That I wasn’t goin’ anywhere until I was satisfied I’d finished the job.
Folks say that when it’s your time, it’s your time,
But I had no intention of departing this world
Until I was damn sure my count showed
That I had a veto-proof majority among the angels.