The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow called Monday for an end to acrimony in politics as Americans paused to remember the slain civil rights leader.
Coretta Scott King talked last year about avoiding war in Iraq, and her plea for nonviolence returned this year. “Peaceful ends can only be reached through peaceful means,” she said in her annual King Day address.
But this year, with the presidential contest looming, Mrs. King also talked about peace at home.
“The noblest goal is not conquest of enemies but reconciliation with adversaries. We must remember in this election year that Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, we are all sisters and brothers,” said Mrs. King, speaking at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached until his assassination in April 1968.
Barbs for Bush
Mrs. King’s message was conciliatory, but others across the country sprinkled pro-peace words with barbs at President Bush.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, at the same service, received a hearty standing ovation when she referred to last week’s protest of the president’s visit to King’s tomb. About 800 protesters said Bush shouldn’t have come because of his policies on the Iraq war, affirmative action and social service funding.
Referring to President Bush, the mayor said, “Perhaps some prefer to honor the dreamer while ignoring or fighting the dream.”
Martin Luther King III, soon to take the helm of the King Center, said Bush’s policies will not lead to a safer world. “It’s very sad that we’re engaged in war today,” he said.
“We have to be concerned not just about us, we have to be concerned about all our brothers and sisters throughout our nation and world. How many Iraqi children have been killed? When will the war end? We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others,” he said.
Events in Dallas, Boston
In Dallas, hundreds of spectators cheered and clapped as floats and marching bands paraded through city streets.
“The struggle is not over,” said parade organizer Daryl Blair. “That’s just not for blacks, that’s for whites alike. We have to understand that this is a melting pot and the civil rights movement was about unity, not just for the black race but for mankind.”
The Rev. Vashti Murphy-McKenzie, the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, told a holiday breakfast gathering in Boston that some progress has been eroded.
“The chipping away of minority set-asides, the chipping away of scholarships for minority students, affirmative action forever under attack — that says it’s good, but it’s not good enough,” she said.
An annual march through Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn district, where King grew up, was planned for the afternoon, and more than 15,000 people were expected to eat at the Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry dinner at Turner Field.
Williams, one of King’s first lieutenants in the civil rights battle, died in 2000 after a battle with cancer.
Students walk out on Jeb Bush
In Tallahassee, Fla., about a dozen students walked out Monday as Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, spoke at historically black Florida A&M University. In a statement, the students criticized his views on affirmative action, among other things.
The governor said the students have every right to express their views. He also said Florida A&M’s success “could not have occurred without the struggles that Dr. King and many others a generation ago undertook.”
At the University of Michigan, hundreds marched in support of the school’s affirmative action policy. The policy is under fire from a group that wants voters to decide the issue in a Nov. 2 referendum.
In Washington, volunteers helped the homeless, delivered meals to homebound people and took part in other projects, saying the best way to honor King’s legacy was to give back to the community. Thousands in Philadelphia participated in similar of acts of community service.