Senate Democrats

Reid Statement Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today at a congressional ceremony in the U.S. Capitol to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King:

“During my time at George Washington law school, I worked as a Capitol police officer and in the House post office.  On that hot August day in 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King led the March on Washington, I was there.  I may have been just one in a crowd of a quarter million that day, but when Dr. King stood in the shadow of the Great Emancipator and said ‘I have a dream,’ every one of us dreamed along with him.

“Dr. King taught us that dreams have power – and that dreams coupled with action have the power to change the world.  As we honor Dr. King, we must note the sandstone walls and marble floors of this beautiful United States Capitol were built by the hands of slaves.  Yet because they and those who followed dared to dream, less than 20 years after this building was completed, a black man – Hiram Revels – walked these halls not as a slave but as a United States Senator.

“We also remember after Dr. King was taken from us in 1968, his martyred body was not bestowed the honor of lying in our United States Capitol Rotunda.  Yet because our country dared to embrace his dream, his statue now stands there permanently – just steps from here.

“If he were here today, I hope and believe that Dr. King would be proud of those who carried on his work.  Without doubt, he would be proud of our friend and his disciple, John Lewis, who serves in Congress with distinction.  And of course he and Mrs. King would be proud of their children, who themselves have become civil rights leaders.

“But we know this: though Dr. King would acknowledge and appreciate our progress, he would tell us that the struggle continues and there are still mountains to climb.  One mountain we must climb: the millions of children and working people who don’t have the health care they need.  One mountain we must climb: the growing gap between rich and poor.  One mountain we must climb: the high dropout rates and overcrowding that plague our public schools.  One mountain we must climb: ending the war in Iraq.

“Some may say – why address so controversial an issue in a setting like this?  The answer comes from Dr. King himself.  From the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967 – one year to the day before his death – King said, ‘a time comes when silence is betrayal.  And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.’

“In Dr. King’s memory, we must not be silent about the things that matter to this generation.  It is not enough to honor him with speeches, tributes or ceremonies alone.  He would be the first to tell us this.  Our responsibility is to continue his dream – with courage and hard work – so that we can, as he said, ‘make our old world a new world.’”