CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Martin Luther King III Commemorates His Father And Continues His Work
Aired August 23, 2003 - 15:53 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, PRES. SCLC: Let me first thank God for allowing all of us to be here this most historic day. And particularly for cooling it off a little bit. As we stand here this evening, earlier today we had teach-ins where we acquired information, and this afternoon we're engaged in our rally and march where we will garner inspiration.
Let me first thank all of our coalition partners. This coalition of conscience that has worked so hard to ensure that we would all be here today. To each and every program participant, who most of them are coalition partners. To my board of directors of SCLC, some who are with us today. To my mother and siblings, my mother, Coretta Scott King (ph) and my sister, Yolanda Denise King, and my other sister, Bernise King (ph), and my brother, who was not able to join us today. But probably most of all to the children, for they are our future, and everything that we do is for those who come behind us. I certainly thank everyone for coming to this wonderful demonstration for jobs, peace and freedom.
We've come here to celebrate one of the greatest days in American history. The day when hundreds of thousands of Americans of goodwill joined together at this hallowed memorial in a magnificent display of solidarity for jobs and freedom. It was also a day when a young man, just 34 years of age, stood here on these steps and shared his vision of a nation reborn in justice, renewed in honor and redeemed in brotherhood and sisterhood.
Now, let me make it clear that while my father, Martin Luther King Jr., in 18 minutes became the speaker of the day, and even though he was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SCLC did not call for or direct the march. Organized labor did that because labor
labor and working people were in trouble in 1963. But 40 years later, the same people are in trouble. The second most important fact about August 28 is that I was only 5 years old. And even though my father was already famous, my mother, Coretta Scott King (ph), went out of her way to provide my sister, Yolanda, Dexter, Bernice and I, creating a normal sense of what childhood should be. Therefore, when people talk about that great day. I have no firsthand knowledge.
But I do know that my father was more than a dreamer. And I do know that redeeming the bad check that America had given the negro was his No. 1 goal and dream. And so we are here not only to celebrate, because the glorious dream my father shared with us on that day was not just an exercise in eloquent speech-making, we need to remember that Martin Luther King, Jr was first and foremost a minister of action.
He didn't just talk that talk. He walked the walk. Unbent and unbowed from Montgomery to Memphis, from civil rights to human rights, be assured that he, indeed, or he intended his dream as a challenge to the nation he loved. A challenge we must accept, to rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed and make America a beloved community.
And today we are here to accept that challenge. Knowing that we have a lot of work to do to create the beloved community of his dream. We are here today to applaud the bomb of justice, to heal of festering sores of racial oppression. Despite the progress we've made during the last four decades, people of color are still being denied a fair share of employment and educational opportunities in our society.
And still experiencing incidence of racial violence.
We're here to call for an end to racial oppression in the criminal justice system. We must put an end to selective prosecution and discrimination and sentencing. And we must abolish, we must abolish, we must abolish racial profiling and the death penalty.
Though we are committed to challenge racial injustice against people of color, we are also here in support of social and economic decency for people of all races. For right now in America, 15 million of our white brothers and sisters are living below the poverty line. That is an injustice. That also must be rectified. For if we're serious about building the beloved community, that community includes all people.
We're here today because 44 million Americans have no health insurance, and many millions more have health insurance that doesn't cover serious illness. Let me make it plain as I can, we're here to call on Congress and the White House to establish a health insurance system that covers every person and every illness.
Nothing less is acceptable for a great Democracy. The terror of unexpected illness must be stopped. We cannot and we must not allow history to record that America's greatness was bombing and killing untold innocent women and children in the naming of stopping terrorism and instituting Democracy.
Let us be clear that air and water pollution are not only important environmental issues, but critical health concerns as well. Our SCLC chapter in Calhoun County, Alabama, has led the environmental justice movement in Anniston, Alabama. Pollution is no respecter of political boundaries, and so we are here also to begin globalizing a nonviolent movement to put an end to the poisoning of Mother Earth.
And we are here today because America's senior citizens who built this country with their sweat and toil are seeing their hard-earned retirement assets being ripped off by corporate corporations. We call on our government, we call on our government to immediately enact reforms to protect pensions and retirement assets from greed-driven mergers and unscrupulous manipulators.
We are here because our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers are still being subjected to persecution, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation. Let me state it clearly, let me state it clear, homophobia is a form of fear and hatred. That has no place in the beloved community.
We're here today because human needs are being neglected here at home while our nation is spending 1 billion tax dollars every week on continued military occupation of Iraq. We're here to say that we are patriotic Americans, and we love the men and women in America's armed services, but we do not have a right, indeed, an obligation, to protest -- we do have a right, I should say to protest against military policies we believe to be unwise and economically unsound.
We are here to speak for America's jobless and unemployed workers. We call for putting hundreds of thousands of Americans who need jobs to work, building mass transit systems that will produce -- that will reduce air pollution and eliminate our dangerous addiction to Mideast oil.
We're here today because millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America are being impoverished by the unjust debt their nations owe to western countries. African countries, for example, pay 38 percent of their budgets to service their debt, a loss of $1 billion, a loss of billions of dollars urgently needed for health care and education.
We're here to call on our elected officials to use America's leverage with the international monetary fund and the World Bank to persuade them to cancel the debt of the poorest nations.
And yes, we're here because the time has come to create a revolution at the ballot box. In the last election, just over 38 percent of the eligible citizens went to the polls, and this is something we must change. If we want our Democracy to serve America and America's working people instead of the privileged elite, true election reform must begin with voter turnout and not with incumbent Democrats or Republicans who do not want to be turned out.
And so we're here today to launch a 15-month rolling mobilization, a campaign to educate our fellow citizens about the issues, get them registered to vote and create the largest possible voter turnout on election day. If we can increase voter turnout by just 10 or 15 percent, we can create a political earthquake that can get our government refocused on meeting human needs. As my father once said, a voteless people is a powerless people. One of the most important steps that we can take is that short step to the ballot box. Voters must end our powerlessness.
And here I would like to say a special word about the need for political empowerment of our sisters. Something is very wrong when women who are 52 percent of the population, are less than 14 percent of the U.S. Congress. This is a major reason why the concerns of women and the needs of children and families are being neglected to subsidized tax cuts for those with privilege and power. We need more women at the polls in november 2004. But we also -- but we also need more women who understand that it's not their objective to be just like men, that they must provide the leadership that they always have. A different kind of leadership than some of us as men have provided.
And so as I get ready to close, and perhaps in short, what I'm saying, sisters, is don't become one of the boys if the boys are not right. But lastly, we are here today to launch a new era of hope and healing through increased nonviolent activism for social change. Lest we forget, the great crowd that garied here 40 years ago was inspired by the courageous leadership of a relatively small number of activists who were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring greater freedom and justice to America.
May we heirs of this visionary vanguard have the courage, strength and wisdom to carry forward the nonviolent struggle to fulfill the dream in the 21st century with this faith and this commitment, we will witness a new birth of a new America and a new world where people of all races, religions and nations can live together in peace and harmony, as brothers and sisters in the beloved community.
You know, there are some who sing "God Bless America," and we often forget that God has already blessed America. Now it is time for us to bless God. And we can do that by working in the spirit of the prophet Amos. Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
In closing -- earlier, I said in closing, but this is it, we got a big job to do. A huge undertaking. We know the journey, though, begins just with a few steps of a thousand mouths. It does not take but a few good women and men to create change. Brothers and sisters, let's go forward creating change for our nation, for all god's charn. Thank you and god bless you.
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Continues His Work>