About Us | Contact Us

Biden: Americans should ‘pay attention’ to Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

ATLANTA (AP) — President Joe Biden paid a historic visit to “America’s freedom church” on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, saying democracy was in danger and that the civil rights leader’s life and legacy “show us the way and we should pay attention.”

As the first sitting president to deliver a sermon at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church on a Sunday morning, Biden cited a telling question that King himself once asked of the nation.

“‘Where do we go from here?'” he asked. From the pulpit, Biden said. “Well, my message to this nation on this day is that we go forward, together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos, when we choose believers and dreams, to be doers, to be unafraid, and to always keep the faith.”

In a divided country only two years removed from a violent insurrection, Biden told congregants, elected officials and dignitaries that “the battle for the soul of this nation is perennial. It’s a never-ending battle… between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice.”

He spoke out against those who “traffic in racism, extremism, and insurgency,” and said the fight to protect democracy was taking place in courtrooms, ballot boxes, protests, and other venues. “At our best, the American promise triumphs.” But I don’t think I have to tell you that we aren’t always at our best. We are all fallible. We stumble and fall.”

The visit to Ebenezer came at a critical time for Biden, as Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday the appointment of a special counsel to investigate how the president handled classified documents after leaving the vice presidency in 2017. The White House announced on Saturday that more classified documents were discovered at Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.

In introducing Biden, the church’s senior pastor, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock noted that the president was “a devout Catholic” for whom “this Baptist service might be a little bit rambunctious and animated. But I noticed him clapping his hands over there.”

King, dubbed “the greatest American prophet of the twentieth century,” served as co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.

Warnock, like many battleground state Democrats who were re-elected in 2022, kept his distance from Biden during the campaign as the president’s approval rating fell and inflation rose.

But, with the election behind him and a full six-year term ahead of him, Warnock embraced Biden wholeheartedly at the service. Near the end, he invited Biden to the front of the church and asked Ebenezer’s congregation to pray for the president while listing several of Biden’s legislative accomplishments.

“That is God’s work, my friends,” Warnock said, adding that Biden “had a little something to do with it.”

Georgia will receive a lot of Biden’s attention as he begins to focus on his reelection campaign in 2024.

In 2020, Biden won Georgia as well as the hotly contested states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Black voters made up a disproportionate share of the Democratic electorate. Turning out Black voters in those states will be critical to Biden’s chances in 2024.

The Obama administration has attempted to promote Biden’s agenda in minority communities. The White House has cited efforts to encourage states to consider equity when spending money from the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The administration has also taken steps to eliminate the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine offences, a policy widely regarded as racist.

The administration also highlights Biden’s efforts to diversify the federal judiciary, such as his appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the confirmation of 11 Black women judges to federal appeals courts — more than all previous presidents combined.

One of Biden’s biggest disappointments in his first two years in office has been his failure to secure passage of a bill that would have strengthened voting rights protections, a key campaign pledge. The task has become even more difficult now that Republicans control the House.

In his remarks, the president stated that despite the country’s progress, it has now reached a critical juncture in its history. He stated that democracies can regress, citing the collapse of democratic institutional structures in places such as Brazil.

“Progress is never easy, but it is always possible, and things do improve in our march toward a more perfect union,” he said. “But at this inflection point, we know a lot of work that has to continue on economic justice civil rights, voting rights, protecting our democracy. And I’m reminded that our job is to save America’s soul.”

“This is the time of choosing,” he said. Are we a people who prefer democracy to autocracy? That question couldn’t be asked 15 years ago because everyone assumed democracy was secure. But it isn’t.” “Americans must choose community over chaos,” he said. These are the critical issues of our time, and they are the reason I am here as your president. I believe Dr. King’s life and legacy point us in the right direction, and we should pay attention.”

King, who was born on January 15, 1929, was assassinated at the age of 39. He was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The service was attended by members of King’s family, including his 95-year-old sister, Christine King Farris.

“I’ve spoken before parliaments, kings, queens, world leaders… but this is intimidating,” Biden said at the start of his sermon.

The president will be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

Leave a Comment