US Embassy Berlin

US Embassy Berlin

There is something very special when the 85th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. falls on Tu BiShvat, even more magical when his great spirit can be illuminated in the deepest spiritual roots of this New Year for Trees Holiday. As a Jewish American author, profoundly impacted by visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp, Yad Vashem, and the Washington DC Holocaust Museum, I wrote “Der Himmelsgarten”,  a highly politically charged book, relating how this ‘wisdom’ could be used to help rid the world of hate. Even the kind of hatred that exists in the Middle East.

There is a passage in the torah “For the tree of the field is man” (Deuteronomy 20:19). There are so many correlations that can be made by illuminating this verse in kabbalah: picking out stony hearts out of the garden bed, pruning back branches of prejudice dead weight, rooting out and composting inner weeds into spiritual substrate, smoking out worms of arrogance in fruit trees, and so forth. The Miracle of TuB’Shevat is that any weed-like hateful desire can be transformed into a nurturing inner tree. If you believe in the power of prayer, this physical prayer, a prayer, this is the kind of prayer that roots out limitations for receiving love and reflecting love.

What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated with his rhetoric children can now put into action by weeding out hate and sowing the seeds of peace.

On April 22nd, 2013 (Earth Day) former U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy delivered this keynotes address at the FEZ Jugendzentrum in Berlin,  discussing the merits of the Weed Out Hate for helping to relate the ethics of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s social inclusion spring to life through gardening. Here is the official video clip and transcript  from this event:



Thank you, Mr. Lutz Mannkopf (Managing Director, FEZ-Berlin).

This is a great project.  If I had to pick two topics that I think are the most important to people everywhere, they would be: first, the message of tolerance that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. represenst; and second, the importance of environmental responsibility.  It is important that governments take these issues seriously.  It is also important that each and every one of us do all that we can as individuals to promote tolerance and the environment.  This project combines both of these two messages:  respecting and caring for each and respecting and preserving nature.  It’s fantastic.  What a great way to celebrate Earth Day. 

Mr. Michael Kunsmann (Coordinator of International Programs, FEZ Berlin), thank you for your hard work in arranging this program.  Of course, I would also like to thank everybody here today and commend you for your commitment to the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King.

I think it is fantastic that this is a German-American project.  It was inspired by Marc Daniels, an American gardener, author, and civil rights activist.  He started a “Weed Out Hate” initiative three years ago.  Since then young people in my country have been involved in various initiatives to symbolically root out weeds, which represent hate, and plant sunflower seeds as a sign of peace, love and respect.

Peace, love and respect – that is exactly what Martin Luther King stood for fifty years ago when he gave his famous speech that included the words, “I have a dream.”  Over a quarter of million people listened to this speech which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.  But people around the world listened to his words – and they are just as powerful today as they were 50 years ago.  We have made progress since then.  In that speech, King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  President Barack Obama was two years old in 1963.  His election in 2008 as the first black American President was a milestone but we still have work to do.

Martin Luther King shared many wise words with the world.  I could stand up here for an hour and  read some of the things he said and wrote – and I would still need more time.  But don’t worry, I am almost finished.  I would just like to share a few last pieces of advice from Dr. King.

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.” Those words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have inspired millions of Americans and people around the world to engage in volunteer activities.  The strength of this program here at FEZ and similar programs in the US is that it empowers you, the young people of today, to take out your rakes and shovels and weed out hate for tomorrow.  “Hate is,” as Martin Luther King also said, “too great a burden to bear.  Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

I hope this garden thrives as a symbol of Dr. King’s vision of justice and equal rights for everybody, regardless of their race, color, religion or national origin.  A final word of thanks to Marc Daniels and Hans-Martin Lohmann, the owner and managing director of Neudorff – both of whom donated the seeds.  Also a word of thanks to the gardeners, Ms. Sabine Jahn and Ms. Sylvia Praetzel, who will be working with you all to nurture what I am sure will be a beautiful garden. 

Vielen Dank für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit.

And one last piece of advice from Martin Luther King:  “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right.”