Americans must commit to the unfinished work of Martin Luther King Jr., create jobs and justice, and “protect the sacred right to vote, a right from which all other rights flow,” US President Joe Biden said Monday.
In a video address on Martin Luther King Day, the President said today is a moment to hold a mirror up to the United States.
“It’s time for every elected official in America to make it clear where they stand,” Biden said. “It’s time for every American to stand up. Speak, you will be heard. Where are they standing?”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we must commit to his unfinished work—providing jobs and justice and protecting the sacred right to vote. pic.twitter.com/kS1sRnGAwS
Major holiday events included marches in several cities and Martin Luther King Jr.’s annual service at the assassinated civil rights leader’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The pews have been packed with politicians in recent years, but in the face of the pandemic, many have offered pre-recorded speeches instead.
This holiday marks the 93rd birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was just 39 when he was assassinated in 1968 while helping sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee to strike for better pay and workplace safety.
The King family is asking the US Senate to pass a voting rights bill
King’s eldest son on Monday criticized Biden and the whole of Congress for failing to pass voting rights legislation even as 19 Republican-led states have made voting difficult in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims of vote-rigging.
“You’ve been successful with the infrastructure, which is a great thing — but we need you to put the same energy into making sure all Americans have the same full suffrage,” said Martin Luther King III.
King’s family and supporters marched in Washington Monday demanding passage of a bill to protect voters from racial discrimination.
As part of the annual MLK Day DC Peace Walk, the King family and more than 100 national and local civil rights groups walked across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge into downtown Washington.
Senate Republicans remain united in opposition to the Democrats’ draft ballot. Biden described their blockade as part of “a true assault on our democracy, from the January 6 riot to the assault of Republican anti-election laws in a number of states.”
“It’s no longer just about who gets to vote. It’s about who gets to count the votes. And whether your vote counts at all. It’s about two insidious things: voter suppression and voter subversion,” Biden said.
In a separate speech streamed live to the late Rev. King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Vice President Kamala Harris also urged the Senate to act, warning that efforts to limit voting in some U.S. states could cost millions of Americans could complicate voting.
“The Senate needs to pass this bill now,” she said. “Today we must not be complacent or complicit.”
Republican senator defends party
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black Republican, countered with a series of King Day-themed videos that he said highlighted positive civil rights developments. Scott dodged criticism of his party’s actions, accusing Democrats of labeling Republican members as racists.
Meanwhile, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat who is now running for re-election as Georgia’s first black senator, said in his speech to the sparse crowd in Ebenezer, “Everyone loves Dr. King, they just don’t always love what he represents. “
“Let the word get around, you can’t contact Dr. King while dismembering his legacy,” Warnock said. “If you speak his name, you must stand up for the right to vote, you must stand up for the poor, the downtrodden and the disenfranchised.”
King — who delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech while leading the March on Washington in 1963 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 — saw racial equality as inseparable from alleviating poverty and ending war. His insistence on nonviolent protest continues to influence activists working for civil rights and social change.
The U.S. economy “has never worked fairly for Black Americans — or really for any American of color,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a speech Monday, one of many U.S. leaders to recognize the unmet need for racial equality on MLK Day .
Yellen said the Biden administration has tried to ensure no business entity fails to work for people of color by building equity into America’s bailout plan and injecting $9 billion into community and minority financial institutions badly served by Wall Street .