About Martin Luther King Jr. Day: “This is what Dad meant”

From a post on politico.com by Eugene Daniels headlined “MLK’s family hopes Biden is working today”:

For decades, MARTIN LUTHER KING III has heard his father’s words invoked by politicians across the ideological spectrum on behalf of all sorts of positions — even ones antithetical to his beliefs.

“Everyone believes or says they believe in the words and values of Dad, but they try to extract various portions to make it fit their narrative,” MLK III told me on Sunday. “I have to constantly challenge people and say, ‘No, that’s not what dad meant; this is what Dad meant.’ I have to push back because every politician, every elected official is going to be out making statements about how ‘I loved Dr. King,’ ‘I support Dr. King,’ and then … they’re voting against voting rights.”

That’s why today, as Americans mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the family of the late civil rights leader is cutting through the usual lofty invocations to make a specific ask: “No celebration without legislation.”

[CORETTA SCOTT KING], when she was working so many years to make sure that there was a King holiday, her vision of it always was a day of action — a day on, not a day off,” ARNDREA WATERS KING, MLK III’s wife, told me. “There was no way that we, in good conscience, could celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. this year without [progress on] the legislation that was the cornerstone of his legacy.”

Today, Arndrea, MLK III and their 13-year-old daughter will take part in the “D.C. Peace Walk” across Washington’s Frederick Douglass Bridge and hold a press conference with House Speaker NANCY PELOSI and Congressional Black Caucus Chair JOYCE BEATTY (D-Ohio) aimed at ramping up pressure on Democrats to move voting rights legislation forward ahead of a planned Senate vote on Tuesday. That’s an uphill effort: Neither the Freedom to Vote Act nor the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act have anywhere close to 60 votes in the Senate, and Sens. KYRSTEN SINEMA and JOE MANCHIN aren’t budging in their opposition to reforming the filibuster.

Be that as it may, the Kings don’t hold moderates on the Hill solely responsible for the lack of forward movement.

“What we’ve seen with President [JOE] BIDEN is what happens when he puts his full force and power behind an issue like infrastructure. What we want to see is that same power and passion being put behind voting rights,” said Arndrea Waters King. “We hope that [Monday] is a working day for President Biden.”

The Kings know that the short-term outlook doesn’t look good. But they see keeping the faith — and pushing it forward, no matter the odds — as central to maintaining the late Dr. King’s legacy.

“Had he lived, we would be a fundamentally different place,” MLK III said of his father. “[But] if he just arrived today as a 93-year-old man, he would certainly be very frustrated, but not deterred. He understood that you had to look at the long game. He’d certainly be disappointed that we seem to be going around in a circle. … Not only have we been down this road so many times, we are people who will not give up. We’re not going to give in, we’re not going to give out.”

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