Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Edwards MLK Day Speech: "We Can No Longer Stand Silent" + Letter from MLK III

John Edwards spoke today at the NAACP's King Day rally at the Dome on the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia, South Carolina. He spoke passionately about the importance of speaking out for all the disenfranchised in our society. He emphasized that all of us are in this together, and that we can no longer stand silent in the face of oppression.

UPDATE: See letter to John Edwards from MLK III at the end of the diary.

Edwards speaking today at the King Day rally

“I had the privilege about a year ago of speaking at the Riverside church in Harlem, a place where Dr. King had spoken 40 years ago. He had come there to speak about the war in Vietnam. And the words he used, he said there comes a time in all our lives, where if we stand quiet, if we stand silent when our conscience tells us to speak, that our silence is a betrayal. It is a betrayal of ourselves, it is a betrayal of the country we love so much. Brothers and sisters we can no longer stand silent. We have to speak out and we must speak out together.

“It is time for us to not remain silent about this war in Iraq,” Edwards continued. “It is time for us to bring our men and women home from Iraq. It is time for our voices to be heard loud and clear. It is time that we no longer stand silent because silence is betrayal to 37 million people who wake up every single day in America living in poverty, worried about feeding and clothing their children. This is the great moral issue of our time. It was the central issue, along with equality, in the life of Dr. King.

“Here in South Carolina, we talk about the Corridor of Shame. Brothers and sisters, we must turn the Corridor of Shame into a corridor of hope and opportunity for the people of South Carolina. We as a nation have an opportunity to deal with this great moral issue. So brothers and sisters, my message for today, is that we’re in this today. We are united in this effort to create hope and opportunity, and it is time for us to say enough is enough. We’re better than this. The United States of America is better than this. It is time for us to stand up, speak out, rise up together as one people and create the kind of America that all of us believe in and all of us are fighting for.

No stranger to the fight for justice and opportunity for everyone, John Edwards has laid out an impressive platform to bring balance and equality and close the income and opportunity gap throughout South Carolina and throughout our whole society.

  • Guarantee health care for every American and address the shameful racial and ethnic health disparities.

  • Strengthen schools so every child gets a great education, provide universal early childhood education classes for four-year-olds, and make college more affordable.

  • End the disgrace of two criminal justice systems and support alternatives to incarceration for first-time, non-violent offenders as well as reentry programs.

  • Create safe and affordable housing near good jobs, promote economically integrated neighborhoods and crack down on the scourge of predatory mortgage lending.

  • Protect the right to vote by restoring the right to vote in all federal elections to ex-offenders who have served their sentence and supporting secure and accessible voting ballots for all voting machines.

  • End poverty in America by strengthening families, help workers save and get ahead, reach overlooked rural areas, and expect people to help themselves by working whenever they are able.

  • Help small businesses by increasing federal contracting opportunities for minority-owned small business and use the power of the federal government to help small business.

  • Ensure environmental justice by maintaining access to the courts, disclosing the risks of plants, and enforcing the Clean Air Act strongly across the country.

  • Enforce civil rights laws by strengthening the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, choosing judges who are committed to protecting civil rights, and appointing officials who vigorously enforce our civil rights laws.

  • Close the digital divide by establishing a national broadband policy with a goal of giving all U.S. homes and businesses affordable access to real high-speed internet by 2010 and prohibiting telephone and cable companies from discriminating against rural or low-income communities in building their networks.

For more information see the fact sheet.

All of this goes right to the heart of why I have been supporting John Edwards throughout his campaign. Four years ago, he was the one candidate to bring the issue of poverty onto the national stage. He has awakened a desire in our national conscience to do what's right, by relentlessly pushing this issue.

Edwards understands that justice never comes without a fight. We are all in this together, but we need a leader who will stand strong with us.

If you missed his inspiring speech at Riverside Church last January for Martin Luther King Day, here are some excerpts:

We Shall Overcome!


Today, John Edwards received the following letter from Martin L. King III after a meeting with him at the King Center in Atlanta. PDF

January 20, 2008
Martin Luther King, III
President and CEO

The Honorable John E. Edwards
410 Market Street
Suite 400
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Dear Senator Edwards:

It was good meeting with you yesterday and discussing my father’s legacy.

On the day when the nation will honor my father, I wanted to follow up with a personal note.

There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of back and forth in the political arena over my father’s legacy. It is a commentary on the breadth and depth of his impact that so many people want to claim his legacy. I am concerned that we do not blur the lines and obscure the truth about what he stood for: speaking up for justice for those who have no voice.

I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are - a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.

You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don’t have lobbyists in Washington and they don’t get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.

I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.

From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you. I know you know what it means to come from nothing. I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.

I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.

So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father’s words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.


Martin L. King, III

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