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In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day and Coretta Scott King

January 18th, 2009 · No Comments · Articles and News, Home

On August 28, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the nation’s capital with these eloquent words:

“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity to this nation….And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back…I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.”

While Dr. King spoke these words in reference to the guaranteeing of civil liberties for African Americans, he touched on the rights afforded to all Americans, regardless of race, creed, color, or sex. When he speaks of the note as a promise that all men would be guaranteed these rights, we would also suggest that he included all women in his hope for the future as well. He had a strong family who supported and encouraged his work and made a particular point to note his wife’s integral role in all that he did. Dr. King once wrote, “I am indebted to my wife Coretta, without whose love, sacrifices, and loyalty neither life nor work would bring fulfillment. She has given me words of consolation when I needed them and a well-ordered home where Christian love is a reality.”

Coretta Scott King was a testament to fortitude of faith. She stated soon after her husband was killed, “I’m more determined than ever that my husband’s dream will become a reality.” She was the spirit of life behind the man who made human rights his life’s work and in his death, she continued and expanded on that work throughout the remainder of her own life.

Coretta Scott herself was the daughter of an Alabama country storeowner, who grew up during the Great Depression. As a young girl, she helped support the family by picking cotton and as she grew into a young lady she studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music with plans for a career in music when she met Martin Luther King, a young Baptist minister working toward a Ph.D. at Boston University.

Coretta Scott King recalled that on their first date, he told her, “You know, you have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.” They married a year and a half later on June 18, 1953 , in the garden of her parents’ home in Marion, Alabama. The couple then moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and organized the famed Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Coretta trained in music and sang in many concerts and narrated civil rights history to raise money for the cause. During the years, Coretta Scott King was with her husband as he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and she marched beside him from Selma, Alabama into Montgomery in 1965 for his drive for a voting rights law.

“She really was not just the wife of MLK, she was his full partner, and carried on that legacy after his death in a remarkable way,” said President-elect Barack Obama.

Only days after his death, she flew to Memphis with three of her children to lead the march of thousands in honor of her husband and to further his cause. Her grace and composure during this time of grief stirred the hearts of millions. As early as December 1968, she called for women to “unite and form a solid block of women power to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty and war,” during a Solidarity Day speech.

Barak Obama stated that, “Without people like Coretta Scott King, he would not be where he is today.” Obama accepted his party’s nomination as Democratic candidate 45 years to the day that MLK gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. He too has a phenomenal woman of strength by his side. And we look forward to our new First Lady, Michelle Obama who is an inspiration to her husband, a woman of conviction, with her support of Women’s Issues, Families of the Military, and Healthcare Issues. We celebrate her aspirations.

At this time in history, we are having to come to terms with our past, our successes, our failures, our mistakes, and our triumphs and our spirit. Let the First Lady Michelle Obama’s spirit carry our way.

As President-elect Obama has stated, “We have a righteous wind at our back, but we can’t slow down now.” We have now moved from the philosophy of “We Shall Overcome” to the new mantra of, “Yes we can.” While many dreams have been crushed, lives inextricably altered, hope does remain for us.

Mrs. King once said, “I think you rise to the occasion in a crisis. I think the Lord gives you strength when you need it. God was using us — and now he’s using me, too.” She said her life without her husband, though drastically changed, was immensely fulfilling. While the dream she and her husband shared as a family may have been altered by his murder, the dream they shared as parents and concerned citizens who were deeply passionate about the opportunity for all men and women to pursue the American Dream without restriction lives on.

Dr. King once wrote:

“If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill
Be a scrub in the valley—but be
The best little scrub by the side of the hill,
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail
If you can’t be the be a star;;
It isn’t by the size that you win or fail—
Be the best of whatever you are.”

“Whatever your life’s work, do it well. Even if it does not fall in the
category of one of the so-called big professions, do it well. A man
should do his job so well that the living, the dead and the unborn could
do it no better.”

As we look forward to a new governmental administration and to the leadership of President Barack Obama, we will surely find our way and support him in doing his best. As he stated, “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America—I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you—we as a people will get there.”


Key Interview with Michelle Obama before becoming First Lady


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