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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2015-01-20

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    JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, what an interesting coincidence. We are here today to hear from the President of the United States, President Barack Obama, on his State of the Union.

    Just yesterday, millions of Americans honored together the legacy and the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I rise today to emphasize that Dr. King's message was not a message for one particular ethnic or racial or religious group, but as I have reflected over the years, he equals the original values of this Nation.

    The Constitution begins by saying we have come to order a more perfect Union. It is a small document. The Bill of Rights gives flesh to the bones of the Constitution because it gives us the freedom of religion and speech and access and the ability to move around, and the right to a jury trial and the right to due process and the right to dignity, and it freed the slaves.

    But it also is a document that can free us from the biases that sometimes come because of isolation, and that was Dr. King. He sought for America her higher angels. He wanted her to be able to be true to her values. For those who fled persecution in faraway places, he wanted America to be that place that did not see color, religion, ethnicity, did not see differences because one was disabled or gay or straight, but really saw us in an equal manner.

    He marched for all people, and I would hope that as we begin this session of Congress, as we listen to the President of the United States, who literally stands on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther King--for it was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where many lost their lives and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 where a young woman by the name of Viola Liuzzo died right after the Selma march. As she was bringing back those protestors and marchers, she was shot dead. She was a white woman from Michigan. And so I pay tribute to Dr. King today, and I look forward to listening to the President's message that will hopefully be a message of hope and the opportunities for America to work together.

    At the same time, I remember my own community. I pay tribute to a place called Freedmen's Town, founded by former slaves, and Camp Logan, a place where Black soldiers were isolated in World War I, but they had on the uniform of this country.

    I pay tribute to Christie Adair, Zollie Scales, C. Anderson Davis, Reverend F.N. Williams, and, as well, S.J. Gilbert, Reverend J.J. Roberson, and many others who have walked the pathway, the leaders of the NAACP, the leaders of the Urban League, and many of our seniors who came to us to give us knowledge through their sacrifices of World War II, to the Buffalo Soldiers that we see in our community all the time, and to those who have put on the uniform through the ages. All of those persons combined make up the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, who leaves us with the most important statement: ``injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'' As we now go on our new journey, let us look to respect our law enforcement but also look, as we stand alongside of the men and women in blue, that we also find a way to be able to bring justice and opportunity and, as well, fairness to the criminal justice system.

    It takes all of us to be able to get that system right side up: our law enforcement officers and their training, and then, of course, the judicial system.

    Let us look forward in Dr. King's spirit of coming together, no matter what our race, color, or creed, whatever our body says to do, to be able to do what is right.

    I said to young people when I was speaking about Dr. King this weekend, I used one simple theme: he had a humble courage, a quiet courage. He had to make decisions in the quietness of his own presence and his own space to say, ``I am willing to do what is right even though there may be danger.'' He never announced and never spoke about words that dealt with his own personal courage. He did say that he had a peace that would allow him to see the promised land and to acknowledge to us that he might not get there with us, but he knew that we as a people--and I take that ``we'' as the American people--will get there some day.

    Let us together fix Ferguson and the many Fergusons around the Nation. Let us bring comfort to parents all around this Nation. Let us be reminded of Dr. King's spirit, not just in this weekend of activities and respect and honor, but let us do it always.

    I close by simply saying, thank you at home to Mr. Ovide Duncantell. Mr. Duncantell has been the visionary for our efforts in Houston on honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. He first met with Daddy King and named the street, and then we were able successfully, with Federal funds and working with Mr. Duncantell, to place a Martin Luther King memorial, the first built outside of Washington, D.C., in the last 10 years. We are excited about it. We know that his spirit is not in bricks and mortar; it is living within us.


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