NATIONAL NEWS

Biden: Americans should ‘pay attention’ to MLK’s legacy

Jan 16, 2023, 8:13 AM
President Biden speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 15, 2023. (The White...
President Biden speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 15, 2023. (The White House/Twitter)
(The White House/Twitter)

ATLANTA (AP) — President Joe Biden made a historical pilgrimage Sunday to “America’s freedom church” to mark Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, saying democracy was at a perilous moment 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 Sunday morning sermon at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Biden cited the telling question that King himself once asked of the nation.

“He said, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Biden said from the pulpit. ”Well, my message to this nation on this day is we go forward, we go together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos, when we choose believers and the dreams, to be doers, to be unafraid, always keeping 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 constant struggle … between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice.”

He spoke out against those who “traffic in racism, extremism, insurrection” and said the struggle to safeguard democracy was playing out in courthouses and ballot boxes, protests and other ways. ”At our best, the American promise wins out. … But I don’t need to tell you that we’re not always at our best. We’re fallible. We fail and fall.’’

The stop at Ebenezer came at a delicate moment for Biden after Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate how the president handled classified documents after leaving the vice presidency in 2017. The White House on Saturday revealed that additional classified records were found 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 saw him over there clapping his hands.”

King, “the greatest American prophet of the 20th century,” as Warnock put it, served as co-pastor from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.

Warnock, like many battleground state Democrats who won reelection in 2022, kept his distance during the campaign from Biden as the president’s approval rating lagged and the inflation rate climbed.

But with the election behind him and a full six-year term ahead, Warnock fully embraced Biden at the service. Near the close, he asked Biden to come to the front of the church and asked Ebenezer’s congregants to pray for the president as he listed several of Biden’s legislative achievements.

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

As Biden begins to turn his attention toward an expected 2024 reelection effort, Georgia is going to get plenty of his attention.

In 2020, Biden managed to win Georgia as well as closely contested Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Black votes made up a disproportionate share of the Democratic electorate. Turning out Black voters in those states will be essential to Biden’s 2024 hopes.

The White House has tried to promote Biden’s agenda in minority communities. The White House has cited efforts to encourage states to take equity into account for public works projects as they spend money from the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The administration also has acted to end sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, scrapping a policy widely seen as racist.

The administration also highlights Biden’s work to diversify the federal judiciary, including 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 those installed to those powerful courts under all previous presidents combined.

Biden’s failure to win passage of a measure that would have bolstered voting right protections, a central campaign pledge, is one of his biggest disappointments of his first two years in office. The task is even steeper now that Republicans control the House.

In his remarks, the president said that for all the progress the United States has made, the country had now reached a critical point in its history. He said democracies can backslide, noting the collapse of the institutional structures of democracy in places such as Brazil.

“Progress is never easy, but it’s always possible and things do get better in our march to 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 remembering our job is to redeem the soul of America.”

This moment, he said, “is the time of choosing. … Are we a people who will choose democracy over autocracy? Couldn’t ask that question 15 years ago because everybody thought democracy was settled. … But it’s not.” Americans, he said, ” have to choose a community over chaos. … These are the vital questions of our time and the reason why I’m here as your president. I believe Dr. King’s life and legacy show us the way and we should pay attention.”

King, who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, was killed at age 39. He helped drive passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Members of King’s family attended the service, including his 95-year-old sister, Christine King Farris.

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

The president plans to be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual breakfast on the King holiday.

___

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in southwest Oregon knew his victim before the at...
Lucy Kafanov, Elizabeth Wolfe and Jeremy Harlan

Man accused of severely beating, kidnapping Oregon woman knew his victim, police say

A man accused of kidnapping and torturing a woman in southwest Oregon knew his victim before the attack, police tell CNN, as the week-long search for the suspect continues.
20 hours ago
Artic weather leads to canceled flights...
Lilit Marcus, CNN

More than 1,800 flights canceled Tuesday, hundreds more on Wednesday

More than 1,800 flights were canceled and many more were delayed on Tuesday as a brutal ice storm continued to hit parts of the South and central United States, bringing a second day of transport problems.
20 hours ago
The booking photo for Aaron Michael Zeman, also known as Tadashi Kura Kojima. ( Hall County Departm...
Michael Houck

Layton Amber Alert suspect charged with kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a minor

The Arizona man who is suspected of kidnapping a Layton boy has been charged with multiple felonies Tuesday. 
20 hours ago
Priscilla Presley speaks at the public memorial for Lisa Marie Presley at Graceland on January 22, ...
Andrew Dalton, Associated Press

Priscilla Presley disputes trust of late Lisa Marie Presley

Priscilla Presley has filed legal documents disputing who oversees the estate of her late daughter Lisa Marie Presley.
20 hours ago
This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows an emperor tamarins that lives at the zoo. Two monkeys ...
Andi Babineau and Elizabeth Wolfe

After monkeys stolen and animals enclosures cut open, Dallas Zoo releases photo of suspect

For the fourth time this month, the Dallas Zoo finds tampering with their animals and their enclosures, including one dead bird.
20 hours ago
A Qantas Boeing 747-400, registration VH-OEJ,  passes over Sydney's Eastern Suburbs as it departs S...
Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It's delivering its final 747 jumbo jet.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Biden: Americans should ‘pay attention’ to MLK’s legacy