Today is an important day for all of us who dream of equal justice for all regardless of gender, race or economic standing. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for more than just racial equality, he spoke so clearly about the consequences of the Vietnam war and the need to end poverty in America. So on this day Martin Luther King III sent a letter to Presidential Candidate John Edwards that I wanted to share it because I believe that MLK III saw something I’ve seen in Edwards and it was amazing to hear it so clearly from such an important voice.
Some may object to the political nature of todays celebrations, I believe that Dr. King would want this day to be political, it’s not just about his birth, it’s about the birth of a movement, a political movement that pushed lawmakers to listen to the people. We need a new movement so that the Government works for us again. We need to politicize this for the sake of Dr. King’s legacy of speaking out on all kinds of injustices.
John Edwards has been at the forefront of this race with these issues and he’s been fighting for them with every chance, he’s been talking about them with every stump speech, it’s been the driving force behind his campaign. I’ve also included his speech from todays festivities and I think it’s worth a listen.
The entirety of the letter is below the cut.
January 20, 2008
The Honorable John R. Edwards
410 Market Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Dear Senator Edwards:
It was good meeting with you yesterday and discussing my father’s legacy. On the day when the nation will honor my father, I wanted to follow up with a personal note.
There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of back and forth in the political arena over my father’s legacy. It is a commentary on the breadth and depth of his impact that so many people want to claim his legacy. I am concerned that we do not blur the lines and obscure the truth about what he stood for: speaking up for justice for those who have no voice.
I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are – a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.
You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don’t have lobbyists in Washington and they don’t get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.
I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.
From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you. I know you know what it means to come from nothing. I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.
I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.
So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father’s words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.
Martin L. King, III
Edwards speaking today at the King Day rally
“I had the privilege about a year ago of speaking at the Riverside church in Harlem, a place where Dr. King had spoken 40 years ago. He had come there to speak about the war in Vietnam. And the words he used, he said there comes a time in all our lives, where if we stand quiet, if we stand silent when our conscience tells us to speak, that our silence is a betrayal. It is a betrayal of ourselves, it is a betrayal of the country we love so much. Brothers and sisters we can no longer stand silent. We have to speak out and we must speak out together.
“It is time for us to not remain silent about this war in Iraq,” Edwards continued. “It is time for us to bring our men and women home from Iraq. It is time for our voices to be heard loud and clear. It is time that we no longer stand silent because silence is betrayal to 37 million people who wake up every single day in America living in poverty, worried about feeding and clothing their children. This is the great moral issue of our time. It was the central issue, along with equality, in the life of Dr. King.
“Here in South Carolina, we talk about the Corridor of Shame. Brothers and sisters, we must turn the Corridor of Shame into a corridor of hope and opportunity for the people of South Carolina. We as a nation have an opportunity to deal with this great moral issue. So brothers and sisters, my message for today, is that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in this today. We are united in this effort to create hope and opportunity, and it is time for us to say enough is enough. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re better than this. The United States of America is better than this. It is time for us to stand up, speak out, rise up together as one people and create the kind of America that all of us believe in and all of us are fighting for.“