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Published on January 19th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


Hillary Clinton Delivers Remarks at King Day at the Dome

Hillary Clinton delivered remarks at the annual Martin Luther King Day at the Dome rally in Columbia, South Carolina, where she discussed the legacy of Dr. King, the unfinished business of America, and highlighted the women of the civil rights movement. Clinton addressed a number of systemic inequities and civil rights issues that our country must address immediately like African American families in Flint, Michigan, who have been drinking and bathing in lead-poisoned water, mothers like Sybrina Fulton who have lost their children to gun violence, and the urgent need to reform our criminal justice system.

Please see a full transcript of the remarks below:

“Hello South Carolina! What a beautiful morning for “King Day at the Dome.”

“And how wonderful it is to be here together without the Confederate Flag overhead. That flag always belonged in a museum, not in a state house. I want to thank Governor Haley and the legislature for finally taking it down! And by the way, Bree Newsome deserves credit, too, for doing what a lot of people wanted to do — shimmying up that flagpole.

“But you know who else deserves credit? Each and every one of you. Because every year, you’ve gathered right here and said that that symbol of division and racism went against everything Dr. King stood for. We couldn’t celebrate him and the Confederacy, we had to choose. And South Carolina finally made the right choice. Well I know that some of you have never missed a single King Day at the Dome. And I hope you feel a lot of pride today. Because a lot of people are grateful to you – not just in South Carolina, but across our country.

“So now, the flag is down. But we’re still here because that flag was just one piece of something bigger. Dr. King died with his work unfinished, and it is up to us to see it through. Remember what he said the night before he was killed in Memphis. “I’d like to live a long life,” he said. “But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But… we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” I always thought that it seemed like he knew what was coming. And he was very clear – he was counting on all of us to keep going after he was gone. To be a part of what President Obama calls “the Joshua Generation,” carrying forward the holy work that the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement began.

“That means, I believe, all of us. Dr. King fought for equal rights for African Americans, but he knew that liberating black people would also set white people free. We are all diminished by racism and bigotry and injustice, no matter who we are, whether we know it or not. So yes, America has surely made progress but today we should pay tribute to people who helped bring us to this point and be challenged to continue their work. I want to take a moment to remember the women of the movement. Like Coretta Scott King, who was there with her husband every step of the way. Fannie Lou Hamer, who suffered beatings for her activism and roused crowds of thousands with her electric oratory. Rosa Parks, who with her quiet dignity helped ignite a social movement that transformed America – and Claudette Colvin, the high school student who was arrested for resisting bus segregation nine months before Mrs. Parks.

“Dr. Dorothy Height, the most elegant, unstoppable woman you would ever meet. Daisy Bates, leader of the NAACP’s Arkansas branch, who guided the Little Rock Nine as they integrated Little Rock Central High. Amelia Boynton, who organized the Selma March and was beaten unconscious on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Students like Vivienne Malone and Elizabeth Eckford, who walked past vicious crowds with dignity, determined to take their rightful place in all-white schools. And all the women and men who poured their hearts and nerve into dismantling the systemic racism and inequality that held down millions of people, and deprived the world of their full talents and contributions. This day is devoted to promoting education. And I hope for the sake of the children of South Carolina, progress is possible. Because the spirit of those who came before should live within everyone who strives to uproot the systemic inequities that remain. It lives on in the mothers who are fighting for an end to gun violence nationwide. Because at a time when guns kill more young black men than the next nine leading causes of death combined – and when black people are killed worshipping at Mother Emanuel with a gun bought through a legal loophole – this isn’t just a public safety issue. It’s a civil rights issue.

“It lives on, it lives on, in the activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter, and Say Her Name, and everyone who stands up and says at a time when far too many black people are dying after encounters with police, and when 1 out of 3 black men may well end up going to prison in their lifetimes, criminal justice reform isn’t just a law enforcement issue. It’s a civil rights issue.

“It lives on in public health and environmental activists who say that, when African-American kids are 500 times more likely to die from asthma than white kids – and when the children of majority-black Flint, Michigan, have been drinking and bathing in lead-poisoned water for more than a year – making sure all Americans have clean air and water isn’t just a health issue. It’s a civil rights issue. We would be outraged if this happened to white kids, and we should be outraged that it’s happening right now to black kids.

“That spirit that motivated the Civil Rights pioneers lives on in the Dreamers who are fighting for their rightful place in this country and for all immigrants, documented and undocumented. In all those who stand up against racism, sexism, homophobia, and hate in all forms, and who fight to protect voting rights and labor rights, who want to see women receive equal pay, and children from every zip code get an excellent education. And yes, it lives on in those who fight to end poverty, just like Dr. King, who was passionate about ensuring all Americans have a shot at a good job, a good wage, a dignified standard of living. So yes, the challenges we face are many. But so are the quiet heroes working in every corner of America today, doing their part to make our country a better place. I for one receive so much inspiration from that simple fact.

“Not long ago, I went to Chicago to meet with a group of mothers who belong to a club no one ever wants to join. One by one, each held up a picture of a beloved child killed by gun violence or by the police. They’re not looking for sympathy. They just want to spare other families from what they’ve endured. And they’re turning their grief into a powerful call of action for the nation. One of those women is named Sybrina Fulton. Her son was Trayvon Martin. When he was killed, she found herself thrust in the national spotlight. I got to know her. She’s a pretty private person, and she really didn’t want to be a spokesperson for victims of gun violence and their families. She struggled with that for a long time. But after a lot of prayers, she decided she had to act. She said, “I have to do my part. I have to do something to remember my son. I have to do something to try to make a difference in this world. … If you want change, it starts with you.”

“So on this Martin Luther King Day, as we remember this giant from history, let us also think of Sybrina Fulton, and everyone who gets up every morning, and takes a very deep breath, and gets to work trying to make a difference in our country and this world.

“This holiday is theirs – and yours. And I am very honored to spend it with you.

“Happy Martin Luther King Day.”

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