Presidential candidates Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, all paid tribute Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.
Presumptive GOP nominee McCain spoke at Memphis, Tenn.’s, Lorraine Motel, now a civil rights museum, where King was shot while standing on his balcony. The Arizona senator called king a “believer in the power of conscience and goodness to shape events,” saying one of King’s most important assets was “the power of truth, spoken with a servant’s heart and a voice like no other.”
McCain also noted that his early vote against a federal holiday in King’s memory was a mistake. “I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona,” he said. “We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans.
Senator Obama, vying to be the country’s first black president, began his speech in Fort Wayne, Ind., with a moment of silence, and then expanded on King’s final mission, nothing that the leader was standing up for sanitation workers’ rights when he was killed.
“Instead of having a politics that lives up to Dr. King’s call for unity, we’ve had a politics that’s used race to drive us apart, when all this does is feed the forces of division and distraction, and stop us from solving our problems,” Obama said, drawing on comments made during his own speech on race and religion in Philadelphia a few weeks ago.
Like McCain, Clinton spoke in Memphis, addressing crowds and honoring King for his “profound and lasting impact on a young white girl.”
“As a young woman, I was privileged to be taken to hear Dr. King speak by a youth minister who opened my eyes and ears and my horizons,” Clinton said. “Dr. King’s call to action that evening in Chicago led me to confront a world bigger and broader than the one I inhabited.”
The New York senator also reflected on her personal memories of King in an ad released Wednesday.
“On this solemn occasion, my thoughts and prayers are with Dr. King’s family — of course, I remember so well the loss of Coretta, who was his partner in every way — and I think of the families of so many other Americans who have given their lives in the pursuit of equality, freedom and justice,” Clinton says in the ad. “I believe we can honor Dr. King and all Americans, including the men and women serving our country around the world, by remembering his timeless challenge — what did you do for others?”