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Martin Luther King Jr.’s son cites progress but says U.S. still has ways to go to achieve social justice

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Friday, April 19, 2013, at 10:51 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, April 19, 2013, at 10:51 p.m.

As the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech approaches, his eldest son, Martin Luther King III, perhaps says it best.

“We’ve made progress, but we still have a long ways to go,” King said Friday night to a crowd of about 300 people at Friends University.

King – appearing as part of the school’s annual Garvey Lecture Series – addressed many issues, including rising poverty levels, poor public education systems, corruption in criminal justice and homosexual marriage. The common theme throughout the night was how love, forgiveness and nonviolent solutions are the only viable means of solving problems, he said.

“It’s almost like we’ve got to teach people ethics,” King said. “My dad understood love in an unselfish way. Dad was a not a dreamer – he was a doer.”

King said that while society has made significant strides toward achieving his father’s dream, “we are not there yet.”

“Everyone should be able to have a decent home, everyone should have health care, everyone should have a decent job, everyone should be able to have justice,” King said.

“When I visit most community courthouses looking for justice, all I find is ‘just us.’ It’s almost like slavery all over again.”

King spoke for about 40 minutes in the auditorium of Davis Hall, illuminated by the soft glow of the setting sun through the building’s stained-glass windows.

“We really have to learn to treat our fellow human beings better,” King said. “That’s what my father and his mission was all about.”

Eight members from the 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-in were present at the event and were some of King’s most vocal supporters during the speech. Other attendees also spoke highly of King and his message.

“It reminded me of what I’ve learned from Gandhi,” the Rev. Titus James said. “It really impacted me. The truth and the call to do right still rings true in my heart.”

The lecture was dedicated to the memory of Jean Garvey, who died in December. Her daughter, Ann, said the lecture was an appropriate speech for today’s society.

“We must counter bad with good, violence with love,” Ann Garvey said. “I’ve been on the verge of tears for so long. It’s just so timely.

“This is the way the world is supposed to be. I’m so overwhelmed, I’m speechless.”

Most attendees at the event agreed King’s message is especially applicable today and that people need to take action if they want to see change, event attendee Charles King said.

“It felt supergood, like lightning striking a second time,” he said. “It kind of carried you back in time and made it feel much better.

“I could feel his dad coming out at the end of his speech. It made me want to stand up and shout.”

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