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January 19, 2009

A New Era

A new era will be ushered in Tuesday with the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th president. Meanwhile, all across our country today we are celebrating one of America's true heroes, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

As I prepare to participate in one of the National Day of Service projects, I am reminded of some of the words of Dr. King about the problem of gun violence in America. In explaining his philosophy, he once famously said, “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” To Dr. King there was no such thing as “justified” violence.

I am also reminded of the last time I saw Dr. King. I was determined to get a photograph taken with him. I asked a stranger to use my camera and snap a picture as we talked. After anxiously waiting for the film to be processed, I was crest-fallen to find a great photo of Dr. King and my left hand. Now all I can say is “really, folks, that is my hand in the photograph.”

We at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence were blessed to have Coretta Scott King serve for many years as our Honorary Chairperson. Her advice was a tremendous asset to our work. In addition, we have been greatly assisted by the participation of Martin Luther King III.

I was greatly honored to be asked by Mrs. King to be a speaker at a King Birthday program in the King Center in Atlanta and later to be a speaker at a MLK Day program at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking at a King Day service held jointly by two churches—one a predominately African American congregation and the other a predominately white congregation.

On my way Sunday to the massive “We Are One” concert on the Mall, I was brought to tears by a bumper sticker that was being sold on the street: “Dr. King marched so that Obama could run!”

What a great week this will be.

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