Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Obama's kind nod to King

Plans to use his Bible at inauguration

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ATLANTA -- U.S. President Barack Obama plans to use a Bible that belonged to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as he takes his oath of office, a powerful symbol of this year's rare intersection of the civil rights movement and the nation's first black president.

Monday is both Inauguration Day and the U.S. holiday honouring the slain civil rights leader. It is only the second time the two have fallen on the same day. Some say it's only fitting the celebrations are intertwined.

"It's almost like fate and history coming together," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who worked alongside King in the fight for civil rights during the 1950s and '60s and plans to attend the inauguration. "If it hadn't been for Martin Luther King Jr., there would be no Barack Obama as president."

Some King commemorations have been shuffled around to accommodate the inauguration, though others are going on as planned.

King's youngest daughter, Bernice King, plans to attend the observance of her father's memory at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he preached, and said she doesn't fear the inauguration will overshadow the celebration.

"I think it enhances the observance, actually, because it heightens people's awareness about the King holiday," she said. "I also think it gives some sort of validation to the significant work that my father made to this country, to this world, in fact."

The only other time a presidential inauguration has fallen on the King holiday was in 1997 at the start of president Bill Clinton's second term. Clinton invoked King's memory in his inaugural address, and events were planned throughout the inauguration weekend to commemorate King.

"Thirty-four years ago, the man whose life we celebrate today spoke to us down there at the other end of this Mall in words that moved the conscience of a nation. Like a prophet of old, he told of his dream that one day America would rise up and treat all its citizens as equals before the law and in the heart," Clinton said in his address. "Martin Luther King's dream was the American dream."

Obama plans to incorporate the legacy of the civil rights movement into his inauguration. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, is slated to deliver the invocation.

The president also plans to take the oath of office for his second term with his hand on two Bibles, one owned by King and one by Abraham Lincoln. As he takes the oath, Obama will be facing the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his "I have a dream" speech 50 years ago this August.

Having the president call for her father's Bible was a special moment, Bernice King said.

"What a significant honour," she said. "To me, it's like another elevation for my father."

Obama also plans to honour King throughout his inaugural weekend, beginning by asking Americans to volunteer in their communities on Saturday to honour the civil right leader's legacy of service.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 A26

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