Saturday, February 27, 1999

King's son delivers message of hope

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP — His name evokes memories of his famous father, and his message echoes his father's mission.

        Martin Luther King III wants to finish that mission, closing the gap between reality and the dreams of his father — slain civil-rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

        “We are a better nation than the behavior we are exhibiting,” he told students and adults during a chapel service Friday at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.

        With a preacher's fervor, he urged a new dedication to eliminating the problems the Rev. Dr. King fought — poverty, racism and violence.

        “We don't seem to be embracing the law of "love thy neighbor.' ... It seems that as we become more technologically advanced, we don't seem to be advancing morally,” Mr. King said.

        Mr. King, 41, of Atlanta, was elected last year as the fourth national president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the group co-founded in 1957 by his father. With him in Cincinnati Friday was the Rev. E. Randel Osburn, an SCLC official who was the youngest staff member of the conference under the Rev. Dr. King.

        As a Fulton County, Ga. county commissioner for seven years, Mr. King led efforts to bring diversity into local government. His legislation led to more jobs and public contracts for minority- and female-owned companies, he said.

        He brings, he said before taking the stage, a “message of hope, and a message, in some cases, of reconciliation and inclusion.”

        There is “something festering,” in the nation, he said, to have incidents such as the recent dragging-death of a black man in Jasper, Texas, still occurring.

        “We cannot let this happen in a civilized and just society,” he said. “My father would be disappointed. We've come a long way but still have a long way to go to achieve the dream of freedom, justice and equality he fought for.”

        After the speech, Mr. King said he would side with those who want to keep monuments of the Ten Commandments in front of four Adams County, Ohio, high schools. A federal lawsuit filed Feb. 9 on behalf of an Adams County resident by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demands the monuments come down.

        “While I understand legally what they address, in our society we need to embrace values (like) the Ten Commandments,” he said.

        Mr. King's presence stirred an excited buzz in hallways.

        “It's nice to get to know someone so close to a famous American. His father was the greatest civil-rights leader — he's like larger than life,” said Collin Richardson, 14, of Sycamore Township.

        Meeting Mr. King was “very humbling,” said Cayte Howard, 18, of Anderson Township.

        “He gave a very challenging message. I knew it would be moving, I knew it would be powerful. I think he captivated people.”


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