FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s MLK Day Speech, 2007

by DICK J. REAVIS

Atlanta, January 15, 2007

President George W. Bush revealed Monday that in his recent review of strategy options for the war in Iraq, he turned for inspiration not only to the Bible, but to the writings and speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The president’s remarks came in an address at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the former pulpit of Dr. King, whose birthday was marked in nation-wide ceremonies.

Bush’s message was transmitted live by FoxNews, whose footage was also fed to a Jumbotron mounted above the alcove where the Ebenezer choir was seated.

The president’s address was a highlight of this year’s King Day festivities in the city. It reflected a trend in recent years to elevate King’s stature with words of praise from living luminaries, especially those from Republican and military ranks.

As he began his review of American policy in Iraq, some two months ago, Bush said he was reassured by the words of a 1956 message King delivered in Birmingham, Alabama.

“When Rev. King told his audience that ‘the present tensions represent the necessary pains that accompany the birth of anything new,’ it was clear to me that he knew just what I was facing,” Bush said.

“The Rev. King told us,” he continued, “that ‘It is both historically and biologically true that there can be no birth and growth without birth and growing pains.'”

“We are seeing those birth and growth pains as democracy takes root in the Middle East,” the president declared.

In a rebuff to detractors on the left, Bush said that “Those who advocate a course that I have called ‘cutting and running’ have not studied the wisdom of the Rev. King. Peace, he understood, cannot come as the fruit of cowardice or of the failure of will.

“As the great reverend warned us, so many years ago, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force-tension, confusion or war: it is the presence of some positive force-justice, good will and brotherhood.”

“The seeds of that positive force,” Bush added, “were planted in the dry soil of Basra and Baghdad when American troops liberated the Iraqi people in 2003, and those seeds are now germinating, having been watered by the sacrifice of our young men and women in uniform.”

As he was nearing the end of his policy review in late December, Bush added, any hesitation he felt about the need for bold new military initiatives was swept aside when he found, in the text of a 1967 King speech at New York’s Riverside Baptist Church, counsel that “when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we most move on We must move past indecision to action.”

“I faced a challenge, in deciding whether to boost assistance to our brothers and sisters who are struggling for democracy in Iraq,” the president said.

“I decided that we must again come to their aid with all that we have, so that they, too, can in the words of the Rev. King, soon join us in proclaiming, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

Spotty applause from the some 1500 people in attendance, dignitaries and members of the Ebenezer congregation, accompanied these final lines of the president’s address.

Seated on the podium behind Bush was Dexter King, son the late civil rights pioneer, CEO of his father’s estate.

Earlier this year, the estate sold some 7,000 documents from Dr. King’s personal files to a group of Atlanta donors for $32 million, a figure that, many observers noted at the time, made King’s heirs the beneficiaries of Republican tax-reduction programs, especially measures shrinking inheritance and capital gains taxes.

Following Bush’s address, White House press spokesman Tony Snow announced that the president had ordered the Defense Department to seek licensing of the slogan “From indecision to action!” from the Riverside speech for use on an Army poster soliciting young African-American recruits.

Royalties will be paid to King’s estate for use of the phrase, Snow said.

As the King Day gathering was breaking up, the Jumbotron showed a videotape of Saddam Hussein, moments before his execution on December 30.

The president, Secret Service agents and several figures associated with the King family and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-the group that King headed in life-gathered around Ebenezer’s Jumbotron as Hussein made his final allocution.

“It doesn’t matter with me now,” the former dictator intoned, reading from a prepared text.

“I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land.”

Saddam’s statement and the other events of the day did not go down well with all of those present.

“These memorials have made Dr. King into a kind of teddy bear,” one disgruntled congregant said. “Now everybody is quoting him.”

DICK J. REAVIS, an assistant professor of English at North Carolina State University, was a summer volunteer for SCLC in Alabama during the mid 1960s. He can be reached at dickjreavis@yahoo.com.

 

 

Dick J. Reavis is a Texas journalist and the author of The Ashes of Waco.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail