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.

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail