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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Bush, Dignitaries Speak at Coretta Scott King's Funeral
Aired February 7, 2006 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen in to Senior Pastor, Bishop Eddie Long at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
BISHOP EDDIE L. LONG, SR. PASTOR, NEW BIRTH: It would be impossible to have them come and make remarks at this moment. But I think, and even Coretta would want, that we would have all of our civil rights leaders, who have labored so long and are still on the field. That they would just stand. That we would give praise for them. There's Sharpton. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on, come on, you can do better than that. These men and women -- these men and women made it possible. God bless you.
And still, still doing it. Still doing it. And I thank God for them. And there's not a day that goes by that I am not in debt and in honor to them, who have walked with Dr. King and Coretta Scott King and have blessed us. And the thing is, they're in no ways tired, and they're continuing to move forward.
With great honor I have the opportunity to -- not introduce, but to present our commander in chief, the one that God has given the responsibility to lead us, to guide us, as a nation, take us into places and open up opportunity for us and not us, but as America goes so goes this world. So I want you to receive our president of the United States, the honorable George W. Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
To the King family, distinguished guests and fellow citizens, we gather in God's house, in God's presence, to honor God's servant, Coretta Scott King. Her journey was long and only briefly with a hand to hold. But now she leans on everlasting arms.
I've come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole. Americans knew her husband only as a young man. We knew Mrs. King in all the seasons of her life. And there was grace and beauty in every season.
As a great movement of history took shape, her dignity was a daily rebuke to the pettiness and cruelty of segregation. When she wore a veil at 40 years old, her dignity revealed the deepest trust in God and his purposes. In decades of prominence, her dignity drew others to the unfinished work of justice.
In all her years, Coretta Scott King showed that a person of conviction and strength could also be a beautiful soul. This kind and gentle woman became one of the most admired Americans of our time. She is rightly mourned. And she is deeply missed. Some here today knew her as a girl and saw something very special, long before a young preacher proposed. She once said, "Before I was a King, I was a Scott." And the Scotts were strong and righteous and brave in the face of wrong.
Coretta eventually took on the duties of a pastor's wife and a calling that reached far beyond the doors of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. In that calling Dr. King's family was subjected to vicious words, threatening calls in the night and a bombing at their house.
Coretta had every right to count the costs and step back from the struggle. But she decided that her children needed more than a safe home. They needed an America that upheld their equality and wrote their rights in the law. And because this young mother and father were not intimidated, millions of children they would never meet are now living in a better, more welcoming country.
In the critical hours of the civil rights movement there were always men and women of conscience at the heart of the drama. They knew that old hatreds ran deep. They knew that nonviolence might be answered with violence. They knew that much established authority was against them.
They also knew that sheriffs and mayors and governors were not ultimately in control of events, that a greater authority was interested and very much in charge. The God of Moses -- the God of Moses was not neutral about their captivity. The God of Isaiah and the prophets was still impatient with injustice. And they knew that the son of God would never leave them or forsake them.
But some had to leave before their time. And Dr. King left behind a grieving widow and little children. Rarely has so much been asked of a pastor's wife, and rarely has so much been taken away.
Years later, Mrs. King recalled, "I would wake up in the morning, have my cry, then go into them. The children saw me going forward."
Martin Luther King Jr. had preached that unmerited suffer could have redemptive power. Little did he know that this great truth would be proven in the life of the person he loved the most. Others could cause her sorrow, but no one could make her bitter.
By going forward with a strong and forgiving heart, Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband's legacy, she built her own. Having loved a leader, she became a leader. And when she spoke, America listened closely, because her voice carried the wisdom and goodness of a life well lived.
In that life, Coretta Scott King knew danger. She knew injustice. She knew sudden and terrible grief. She also knew that her redeemer lives. She trusted in the name above every name. And today we trust that our sister, Coretta, is on the other shore, at peace, at rest, at home.
May God bless you. And may God bless our country. KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: The president of the United States talking about the dignity, conviction and strength of Coretta Scott King. Coretta even said, "Before I was a King, I was a Scott. We were land owners and independent thinkers. If I had been a weak, fearful woman, Martin would have been force to pull back or curtail some of his campaigns, but I brought to the marriage the spirit of not only my mother discernment but my father's strength."
We're going to take a quick break and talk more about Coretta Scott King.
PHILLIPS: Our coverage continues of the funeral of Coretta Scott King. Jelani Cobb, here with me, professor of history at Spelman College in Atlanta. Also with us in New York, Earl Graves, founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine. The president of the United States speaking just moments ago. We're going to talk about some things that he said, but before we do that, we want to take you back to the live coverage at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta.
MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, ATLANTA: Bishop Long, President and Mrs. Bush, presidents and first ladies, all, distinguished guests, Yolanda, Martin, Dexter, Bernice, Mrs. Christine Ferris (ph) and the entire King family, good afternoon.
My presence here today is the result of many things and many people, not the least of which are my mother, my family, and my political mentors Andrew Young and the late Maynard Jackson.
However, my presence here today as mayor of the city of Atlanta is equally a living witness and testimony to the voices of a freedom choir. A chorus made up of Septima Clark, Alberta King, Bernice Scott, Daisy Bates, Ella Baker, Jean Young (ph), Mary McLeod Bethune, Constance Motley, Marjorie Batames (ph), Bertha May Conner (ph), Rosa Park, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ethel Mae Matthews, Dorothy Bolton, Fannie Lou Hamer and the newest member, Coretta Scott King.
I am here because they lived, and I am here because they struggled. Mrs. King was a trained and gifted vocalist, and she joins this freedom choir, this constellation of guardian angels equipped with her own songs. I, and we, should be grateful that Coretta's extraordinary voice never trembled in the face of intimidation, evil or violent attacks.
Her voice was marked by an elocution that was full of clarity on the causes of racism, the senselessness of war, and the solutions for poverty. Her resonance had international range, from Sunset Boulevard in Atlanta to the rice patties of Saigon, from the tin-top roofs of Soweto to the bomb shelters of Baghdad, from the concert halls of Boston to the camps of Darfur. She sang for liberation; she sang for those who had no earthly reason to sing a song. Mrs. King's commitment to struggle for freedom forced her to occasionally sing a capella and too often solo. Widowed -- widowed, with four children to raise, she committed herself to singing louder and more often. But mother Coretta made certain homework was checked, lunches were packed and her children were safe.
Four days after her husband was assassinated, with her children in tow, she traveled to Memphis. She addressed those in attendance and the nation, describing within her a propelling moral force and an urge to move forward. In her words, she said, "I am impelled to come, concerned not only about the Negro poor but the poor all over this nation and all over the world."
The last stanza and the highest note of Coretta King's freedom song remains to be sung. She's gathered us here today from all walks of life and all persuasions to lift our voices in songs of freedom, equality, social and economic justice, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the children the world over.
Who among us will join the freedom choir? Who among us will sing Coretta's song, with courage and conviction? To smother the cries of hatred, economic exploitation, poverty and political disenfranchisement? For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for you and for me.
Thank you, Coretta.
PHILLIPS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Shirley Franklin, mayor of Atlanta. Standing ovation after that speech honoring Coretta Scott King.
She mentioned the strength of Coretta Scott King as a mother. Coretta actually made this -- this is actually a part of her book. She said, "I was a partner in the movement. When whites bombed our home in Montgomery, Alabama, I was in the home with my infant daughter. We could have been killed. But I refused to give in to fear, because I had a wonderful role model, my father, who, like Martin, was one of the most fearless men I ever met."
Jelani Cobb, professor of history at Spelman College, also Earl Graves, founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine with me.
Listening to Coretta's quote and just listening to all these brilliant women, politicians, spiritual leaders, you sense that same fearless manner in their characters.
JELANI COBB, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, SPELMAN COLLEGE: That's right.
EARL GRAVES, FOUNDER, "BLACK ENTERPRISE" MAGAZINE: Kyra...
PHILLIPS: Yes, Earl?
GRAVES: What we just heard from Mayor Franklin I would have hoped would have been the remarks that we would have heard from our president. I think that what he said was spiritual, but there are other ministers on the stage. When you -- if he -- what I had hoped to hear was something that said, "I'm going to commit myself to fixing the disenfranchised in New Orleans. And I'm going to commit myself to every child -- no child being left behind, rather than the situation we find now. And I'm going to commit myself that no person will not have health care."
And I think it's fine that he wanted to give this country a spiritual message. I think what would have resonated much more is some of the words we heard from Mayor Franklin, who, by the way, was our guest for two days in Phoenix, Arizona, only last week for the Women of Power conference that "Black Enterprise" sponsored.
So I think that -- I don't know what Professor Cobb would think, but I know that there are many in this audience and around the country, I think, would have hoped to have heard something that said, "I, as the leader of this country, intend to see many of the things that Mrs. King stood for, which are the right things for all people, to be carried forward."
PHILLIPS: Earl Graves, you bring up a great point, because when Katrina hit, and we saw the devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf, it definitely revealed an underbelly in this nation. And that is poverty and how we have not dealt with poverty in ways that we should have for decades.
And we still have many speakers to go. Bishop T.D. Jakes, right? This is someone who's been very outspoken about issues of poverty and what we saw after the hurricane hit. And it's true, we do have a long way to go -- Earl, I agree with you -- with regard to dealing with the nation's poor and dealing with economic issues that Coretta Scott King talked so much about when she spoke at universities and schools.
COBB: Right. I think there are two issues here. One is to deal with the loss, the sense of loss that follows the death of a loved one and a beloved person representative of a community. I think that's what we're hearing on one level.
And then on the other, especially with Coretta Scott King, is the moral gauntlet that's laid down. And so -- kind of the elephant in the room is Mrs. King's opposition to militarism and our current engagement in Iraq. Mrs. King's opposition to poverty, outspoken opposition to poverty. Also, her opposition to racism. And we can look at the combination of all those factors in terms of how New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina played itself out.
And finally, I think one thing she does not get enough credit for is that Mrs. King was a really outspoken advocate for women's rights. And not simply for African-American women, but for women period. So for her, you know, being a woman pursuing a master's degree in New England, having come from, you know, literally come from the cotton fields of Alabama, it was difficult for her as a woman and as a black person.
And so I think that those are the questions that she leaves behind. And right now what we will see is much easier to deal with in some ways, is the grief, the grief factor. But the actual challenge that she puts on the table, that's not as easy to deal with.
PHILLIPS: Let's talk more about those challenges, Earl. I'll give you a chance to talk about the points that Jelani brought up. But we want to just take a quick break right now, as we continue to cover -- cover the funeral of Coretta Scott King. We'll be right back.
PHILLIPS: Remembering and honoring Coretta Scott King. We've been following the live coverage of her funeral at the New Birth Missionary Baptist church in Lithonia, Georgia. Her daughter, Bernice, is an associate pastor there. The senior pastor is Bishop Eddie Long.
Right now, a representative from the Republic of South Africa is speaking.
And Jelani Cobb, maybe we should talk for a moment about Coretta Scott King's travels. Of course, she was very involved with issues of poverty, issues of AIDS in South Africa.
COBB: Yes, that's one of the things that I think was important, was that she not only served as a symbolic connection to Martin, but she really was an extension of the ideals of that era. Not simply as a widow, but as an idealist in her own right.
And so she was one of the first people to really challenge the nontreatment and the non -- the ignorance of the issue of HIV and AIDS in the black community, as well as in South Africa. She also was one of the first -- one of the early people demanding that the black community recognize gay rights, gay and lesbian rights.
And so she used that mantle in ways that were overtly political in order to continue to advance the agenda that she saw as being really about human freedom.
Earl Graves, founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine, also with us, live in New York. And Earl, her trips also to India, her relationship studying Gandhi's wisdom. Her husband cherishing what Gandhi preached. It makes perfect sense when you talk about a peaceful world and everything they strived to accomplish. But that was a tremendous part of her life, as well, when she pushed for peace in so many ways, not only in the United States but also overseas.
GRAVES: Well, it was -- what she was speaking to was the needs and the concerns of people all over the world. And so it resonates irrespective of whether or not you're in South Africa, whether or not you're in India, where they have great poverty and where you have the untouchables, still, in these times. Whether or not you're talking about North and South Korea and what that war represented and whether or not we needed to be in it.
And certainly, even in terms of the conflict we find ourselves in today, the billions of dollars we're spending in Iraq. I think, given the time, you would have probably have heard her speak out even more in terms of what this war represents because it is being fought by poor, young African-American, Hispanic and white men and women and with no end in sight.
And when you look at the enormity of the things that have to be fixed in this country, she had to grieve as she looked at these things. And when I remember back to almost 40-something years ago -- and again, when we were riding that train at Robert Kennedy's funeral, she had a vision then. And she talked about Africa in terms of what she saw as the problems. And she talked about peoples in other parts of the world in terms of their concerns.
So she was a visionary, which many people have already said today. But she was a visionary that had a focus. She also said OK, Martin ought to have a holiday, and I'm going to get on with that. And there ought to be a monument on the mall, and I'm going to do that. And I'm going to see that my kids are well -- well educated, and she did that.
PHILLIPS: You escorted her to Bobby Kennedy's funeral, right?
GRAVES: I did, indeed, yes. I had worked for Senator Kennedy from 1965 to '68. And at the tragedy of his death, which obviously was almost two months to the day that Dr. King was assassinated...
PHILLIPS: Earl, you mentioned working for Bobby Kennedy. How can we ever forget that headline in the newspaper with your picture, "First Negro to be hired" -- what was the -- I'm try to remember the headline.
GRAVES: It said "Kennedy Hires Negro."
PHILLIPS: Oh, unbelievable.
GRAVES: I have that framed in my office. I don't know who that young guy is on the left there, with Senator Kennedy, but it's obviously a few years ago.
PHILLIPS: I believe that's you.
PHILLIPS: Jelani, interesting what Earl Graves said about spending time with Coretta Scott King and she was talking about these issues, even at the funeral of Bobby Kennedy. You actually have an interesting story of when she heard about the assassination of JFK.
PHILLIPS: What was it she said?
COBB: Well, actually Martin -- when Martin heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he said to Coretta, very quietly, "That's also going to happen to me."
And -- and she quietly responded, "I know." And this was something -- was a reality that they had lived with since they were 25 years old, 25, 26 years old.
And so it took an enormous amount of resolve, an enormous amount of spiritual fortitude to continue along the path that they were on, because they kind of acknowledged that this is the way that this would play out.
PHILLIPS: And I remember a friend of Coretta Scott King telling me that she always received flowers from Martin on her birthday, and it was close to her birthday when he went to Memphis. And for that birthday, she sent -- he sent her fake flowers and she thought, "Wow, he must have known something was going to happen." And she was able to keep those flowers for the rest of her life.
We're going to listen in now to Dr. Dorothy Height, chairman of the board of the Council of Negro Women in Washington, D.C. She's going to step up to the pulpit, as Bishop Eddie Long introduces her.
And, Jelani, you brought an interesting point up. We'll talk about this after we listen to Dr. Height.
She's the first person -- or the last person rather to head an organization, that worked with Dr. King.
DR. DOROTHY HEIGHT, NATL. COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN: Thank you.
Mr. President, President Clinton, President Bush, President Carter, to the King family and dear friends, there are some people who live their lives not just for themselves alone but for others. And my dear friend Coretta Scott King was such a person.
I first met her some 55 years ago, when she was having a concert in New York at town hall. I was a co-chair, and a few days before the call of the town meeting, Marion Logan, who was the chair, called everyone together at her house. She had a very important message from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which conference halls weren't quite so popular then, but we had one. We put it together somehow. And all of us sat there in the living room and listened as Dr. King talked to us. For over an hour, we had this conversation. And Dr. King went through every aspect of that concert. It was called the Freedom Concert because it would benefit the civil rights movement, and then he told us everything that we should to, even down to telling us what color of dress she would wear. And most women don't like being told what they're going to wear before they wear it, but we knew what she was going to wear.
When we got off the phone, all of us said we weren't surprised at the information, but were we surprised to have a man, dr. King, giving us all that information, but were we surprised to have a man, Dr. King, giving us all that information. And every moment between then and the concert, we kept saying, is that what Dr. King said? As if he were some kind of a manager of concerts. But he brought to that the same precision that he brought to all of his strategies.
But the thing I think impressed us all as we sat there was these were two partners, real partners, and as you listened to him talk, you could feel the love, the concern that everything is right, because after all, this would be in New York, and New York meant a lot. But over and above that, he wanted us to know how he cared. And we did. And I think that the partnership is so real that you and I are the beneficiaries of it today, because Coretta Scott King really institutionalized so much that Martin Luther King sought to teach us, and we need to have that opportunity to the future.
I think we should never forget it, that it was she who took the lead and really helped us understand, that we had to understand something about nonviolence and the beloved community, that we had to have a sense of the way in which that effects us every day and that we have to work at it every day, because she was a woman of faith.
Coretta Scott King was so able to communicate, because her heart was deeply in it. And I always think of the fact that many times when people are going through open doors now, I wish that they could hear the stories of how those doors got opened...
... and how those doors could be fully opened if they followed the message of Coretta Scott King. Here was a woman who really was a woman of conviction. She was a woman of faith. She was a person who took seriously other people. She was concerned about them.
And when you say service, hers was a life of service. She was a friend, but she also was a mentor to many of her friends. And many of us think of those long telephone calls, which were really almost lessons in themselves. You got a lesson in each one.
Coretta Scott King was a woman, a beautiful woman, a gentle woman, but she also was a woman who taught us a lot about how to live. Because with all of her experiences, she said she would not live a life dominated by fear. She never let her life be dominated by fear.
And she tried to help all of us understand the way in which we would have a better life, if we could stop the violence in our society. It's in our schools, it's everywhere, and we have a lesson that we need to take from her.
She was one of the people who early in life must have found that God had a purpose for her life, because she lived it. She worked at it. And I think that that's one of the examples we have of a purposeful life.
In the civil rights movement, we had the great leadership. But I think the moment like this is worth it, to give credit and praise to all of the women, and children and youth who worked in the civil rights movement.
Just for the thousands of them.
Of course when people asked me how it felt working with all those men, I always say fine, but I say that because we had our own little civil rights sisterhood, of those who got together , and we kept thinking moving, and we kept each other bolstered and pushed forward.
And I come today with really joy in my heart that I had the pleasure, the opportunity, the privilege of God letting me live in this century with Coretta Scott King. Of course we all witnessed what we feel about what Dr. King meant to us.
But I think that Coretta Scott King is saying to us, through her life, let us not just think about the history, let us continue to make history and let us move forward.
We've come a long way in the civil rights movement. We've made some great moves, but we have a long way to go.
But if we can take the kind of courage that she had, the kind of spirit that she had, but most of all the sense that she had that we all needed each other and that we needed to work together.
Dr. King used to say it one way when he was talking about us, our different races. He said, the black man needs the white man to free him of his fear. And white man needs the black man to free him of his guilt. We both need each other. We all need each other.
As we strengthen our relationships, we will find that the laws that we have will be more carefully enforced, that we will find that opportunities will be there, not just possible opportunities, and that we can work together.
So, so long as God shall let me live, I want to be with you in the effort to make the dream of Martin Luther King, which Coretta Scott King made so alive to us and instilled to us, a reality. And we have a society in which we have not only law and order, but equality and justice.
PHILLIPS: Dr. Dorothy Height, chairman of the board for the National Council of Negro Woman in Washington D.C., the last person who remains the head of an organization that Martin Luther King worked with, remembering one of her best friends, Coretta Scott King. Coretta even saying "struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation." Dorothy Height asking us all to remember that.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
PHILLIPS: Remembering Coretta Scott King. Right now, speaking at her funeral, Sherry Frank, executive director American Jewish Committee, the Atlanta chapter, here in Georgia. Earl Graves joining us from New York, founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine.
EARL GRAVES, "BLACK ENTERPRISE": I don't have any sound, folks.
PHILLIPS: Do you hear me, Earl? All right, we're going to work on getting our connection to Earl Graves.
Also with us, Jelani Cobb, professor of history, Spelman College, here in Atlanta. We're getting ready to hear from Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative John Conyers. Now, we've been talking so much about Coretta Scott King as a mother, as a fearless mother, as a spiritual woman, as a friend to so many people.
We haven't really talked about Coretta Scott King the politician. She wasn't really a politician, but -- well, I don't know. You might beg to differ with me. But, boy, she did get involved in politics and had an influence on politics.
WILLIAM JELANI COBB, HISTORY PROF., SPELMAN COLLEGE: Yes, you might call her a meta-politician because she was someone who didn't necessarily operate specifically in the political arena, but certainly had a political agenda and was able to navigate through political channels.
And I think the best example of that, when you talk about Senator Kennedy and his political record -- well-known -- and Congressman John Conyers really be being a stalwart -- he's the representative from Michigan -- who has a pedigree that goes all the way back to the civil rights movement, and his current political concern with reparations and issues of reparations.
And so Coretta Scott King had a long relationship with people like that, whom she could call on in the political arena. But I think the best example of that was really with the lobbying and effort that went into getting the King Holiday, in which she was able to really leverage the moral cache that she had, at one point delivering to the Senate I think three million votes on a petition for the holiday.
PHILLIPS: Speaking of the Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy.
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you.
It is a very great honor and a very great sorrow to join in this tribute to our sister, Coretta Scott King. We honor her, of course, for her partnership with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They say marriages are made in heaven and this marriage certainly was.
But it was also made in Boston 53 years ago, where a beautiful, young woman with a beautiful soprano voice would come to the New England Conservatory of Music to learn to be a concert singer, met a young divinity student earning his doctorate degree in theology. And the music they heard was more than music. The bread was more than bread and the history they made together changed the world.
But we honor her as well for the person she was in her own right. Coretta marched to the drumbeat of justice, sang for the cause of freedom, and preached fairness for the oppressed. Her legacy will forever stand as a monument in the heart and soul of our nation and in the pages of history. The book of proverbs asks, who can find a virtuous woman?
Strength and honor -- strength and honor are her clothing. She opened her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness. America found that ideal in Coretta Scott King.
It was an extraordinary privilege for me to have the chance to know her. She showed me, as she showed us all, what it means to overcome not only, as the spiritual says, some day, but every day. She overcame when her husband was jailed in October of 1960, and given the incomprehensible sentence of four months of hard labor in a rural penitentiary for a minor traffic violation.
The situation was ominous and many feared for his life. I remember my brother, President Kennedy, calling her to say he would do whatever was necessary. And Robert called the judge.
Robert called the judge, who fortunately, fortunately, saw the light and Martin was released. In that difficult time and in countless similar times, in the years that followed, Coretta was a constant pillar of strength. Even in the face of the sharpest slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, she was able to overcome and become a symbol of triumph of hope over hate.
She became both a national presence and an international icon, opposing apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s with the same fervor that she had challenged prejudice in America in the 1960s. She knew deep in her heart that none of us are free until we all are free.
At times, it seemed the nation might never relinquish the old traditions of prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. But we had Coretta, with her remarkable combination of power and peacefulness. And in the face of her constant courage, her unshakable faith, her inner strength and quiet grace, even Jim Crow had to yield.
For decades, she was the wind at our back as we worked to enact and uphold civil rights laws, prohibiting discrimination in education in jobs and in housing. And the magnificent King Center here in Atlanta is a monument to her, as well.
And I had the honor of working with her on the landmark legislation to make the birthday of her husband a national holiday. Then, too, her quiet persistence prevailed. Only three Americans in our history have been given that high honor -- George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. And Coretta made it happen.
The words, the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mountain describe her best. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. And blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. And blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Truly, Coretta Scott King was blessed in each of these ways. We know how much the nation still has to do to live up to her ideals, but we know that thanks to her inspiration and that of her husband, eventually, we will reach the promised land. And we rejoice that she and Martin are already there, together again. We know they will always be this to inspire us on our journey. And we know that they will never, ever, ever leave us. .
Thank you. Thank you, Coretta Scott King, for all you taught us and all you gave us. With renewed spirit, we carry on your work, confident that we shall overcome. The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.
PHILLIPS: Senator Ted Kennedy. We can never forget that moment in history when Coretta Scott King made that phone call to Bobby Kennedy and sought his help. I want to talk about that. We want to listen to Representative John Conyers first, but let's talk about that moment in history.
REP. JOHN CONYERS JR., MICHIGAN: I'm here to say that we were blessed when three inspired lives converged to free all Americans, black and white, from the shameful shackles of segregation. Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King and Rosa Louise Parks. Surely, it was providence that brought those three figures together so that each could play their appointed role in America's liberation. I've come from Washington with three planes of members of Congress and they are here. I would like them to merely stand to be acknowledged at this time. All the members of Congress, senators and congresspersons.
But now these three great figures have left their earthly existence, but they remain shining symbols of the greatest transformation of American society. They started a journey that we will travel toward a world full of equality and justice. We will always be grateful that their paths crossed at that critical moment, and that they led that successful crusade that still continues today.
It's fitting that we celebrate Mrs. King's life at this season of reflection and renewal. Dr. King's convictions and character were recently celebrated in the national holiday commemorating his life. Rosa Parks' courageous leadership was honored throughout America after her recent passing.
But the King family, when they came together after Rosa Parks' electrifying refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then 26 years old, Mrs. King, to the front of the civil rights movement.
Like Martin and Rosa Parks, Coretta King's agenda exceeded civil rights. She spoke compellingly at the poor people's march in Washington against the scourge of racism, poverty and war. She campaigned against apartheid in South Africa, for human rights and women's rights everywhere, and she established the Center for Non- violence and Social Change here in Atlanta.
Beyond the goals that Coretta, Martin and Rosa shared, common values pervaded their lives. They shared a determination to speak truth and not to be intimidated by those who urged caution. They shared perseverance in all their endeavors. Mrs. King and Mrs. Parks helped me fight for decades to win passage of the holiday bill for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the start of Martin and Coretta's marriage, she was his partner. They were a team. Coretta King's commitment matched that of her husband, measure for measure. With him she studied Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence in India. In today's phrase, Coretta King was a multitasker. On behalf of the movement, she marched, she taught, she sang, she inspired, she comforted and she did it all while raising four children and providing her husband with the strength that helped him bear his burdens.
When he fell in Memphis, she raised the torch aloft and marched with the striking sanitation workers. Coretta remained both an active leader in the march to justice and an icon of the movement. Now, the last member of this trio has taken her place in the civil rights pantheon that will forever be a beacon for a better world.
We love you, Coretta, and we will miss you.
Thank you very much.
PHILLIPS: Representative John Conyers, talking about Coretta Scott King.
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