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Laura Bush Speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Aired January 21, 2002 - 11:56   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you live to Ebenezer Baptist Church. We are going to hear Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, as she speaks.


CORETTA SCOTT KING: She met and married a young man named George Walker Bush, in 1977, and in 1981, they became the parents of twin daughters named Barbara and Jenna Bush, after their grandmothers.

While raising her children, Mrs. Bush served on library boards and committees -- the PTA, Junior League, and local child protective services. She becoming the first lady of Texas, in 1984, when her husband was elected governor. Her public service activities included launching an early childhood development initiative, providing resources for abused children, promoting family literacy and women's health awareness.

One year ago, Laura Welch Bush became the first lady of the United States of America. She presently serves as an impassioned advocate for Ready to Read, Ready to Learn program, an innovative nation-wide initiative to support teaching as a career choice, to prepare children for school, and to inform young parents about child rearing and cognitive development.

She also launched the first National Book Festival, featuring authors from across the nation, and was attended by 25,000 people.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, Mrs. Bush has been deeply involved in projects to help children get through the healing process. In addition, she has also addressed the nation on national radio on the topic of the plight of women and children in Afghanistan.

Mrs. Bush brings a warm, calm, and positive spirit to the many challenging causes she has embraced. We are most fortunate to have the benefit of her presence this morning.

And when she finishes speaking, she has to leave because she has other commitments, in Washington, and I hope you will be gracious and allow her to do that. I know she wants it stay to hear our speaker this morning, Bishop Eddie Long, but I must leave to take her out, but I will be back to hear my son, Bishop Eddie Long.

So now, I would like to bring to you the first lady of United States, Mrs. Laura bush. Will you please receive her?


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Thank you all, thank you. Thanks so much. Thanks a lot.

Mr. King, what a tremendous privilege it is to be here today at this historic church as we remember an extraordinary man.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man committed to peace and a man committed to change. He was a practical man who was best known for having articulated a great American dream. He deeply loved his country, and because he did, he constantly reminded America of her unfulfilled promises.

Dr. King exerted a tremendous influence on his time, and he continues to speak to ours as well.

Martin Luther King, Jr., shaped our laws, our values, our conscience and our history, and Dr. King was guided by a single overpowering conviction; and that is, the dignity and the worth of every member of the human family. That's what he lived for, and that's what he died for.

There are countless reasons to admire Dr. King, including his, as President Johnson said, persistent bravery, his personal grace, his commitment to justice, his wisdom and his deep compassion.

But one of the most remarkable things about him is that he was the object of so much bigotry and hatred, and yet he never grew bitter or cynical, he never resorted to violence or anger, and he never ceased to love others.

Slavery and segregation were America's besetting sin, and Dr. King, along with President Lincoln, lifted those sins from American life and American law. American history is unimaginable without him.

But I must tell you that there's another reason that I hold Martin Luther King, Jr., in such high regard; and that is his passionate commitment to education.

Dr. King had wonderful parents, wonderful teachers and wonderful mentors. He believed a good education was the birthright of every American child. He viewed it as the gateway to greater opportunity and a better life and as a way to ensure equal rights and social justice.

It's worth reminding ourselves that, as a young black man growing up under Jim Crowe in the middle of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr. turned to the writings of history's greatest philosophers for wisdom and practical guidance. He immersed himself in the thinkers, from Plato and Aristotle down to Russo, Hobbs, Mill and Locke. His incredible education allowed him to become the 20th century's greatest advocate of the American dream and the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence.


Dr. King also understood that education is about more than reading and writing and arithmetic, even though those are vital. He understood that education is also about shaping children's character, about helping them to become good citizens.

Since Dr. King's passing, times have changed, but principles have not. I can't help but believe that Dr. King would have been pleased with the recent education bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by my husband. I think he would be pleased that we are starting a new era in public education, that America's schools are on a new path of reform and results and that every child in America will now have an equal chance to grow in knowledge and character. And I know that he would have supported the principle behind the legislation, which is that no child shall be left behind.

Laws are important, but so is lifting people's vision. In a sermon preached in Montgomery, Alabama, at the height of the civil rights struggle when passions were inflamed and segregation was still the law, Dr. King, once again reached for the moral high ground as only he could.

"As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline," he said, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him."

Near the end of his remarkable sermon this remarkable man said the following: "I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may. I think I've discovered the highest good," he said, "it is love."

Martin Luther King, Jr. lives less than 40 years. His life was often filled with pain, but he stood for truth. He did the will of God, and he made America a more just nation. All of us are deeply indebted to him, to his wife, and his family, and to all of those who gave him strength for the journey.

Thank you all very much.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Laura Bush, first lady of the United States, participating in ceremonies there at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, commemorating the birthday of Martin Luther King. We heard the first lady talk about martin Luther King.

She said he was the object of so much bigotry and hatred, but he himself never resorted to this, never resorted to violence. She talked about not only his commitment to the civil rights that we are so familiar with, but she said another reason I hold him in such high regard was his passionate commitment to education. She talked about how he viewed education as the birthright of every child, and she spoke about the legislation to reform education, a bill her husband signed a few weeks ago. She said she knew that if Dr. King were still alive today, he would very much support that.




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