Joe Biden spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Sunday, becoming the first sitting president Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver a Sunday sermon at the historic church. Served as a priest until his assassination in 1968.
“You’ve been around for 136 years — I know I look like it, but I don’t,” Biden joked, calling King one of “my only political heroes” since entering public office.
In remarks from the pulpit, the president referred to the current moment in American history as the “chosen moment.”
“Are we a people who choose democracy over autocracy? You couldn’t have asked that question 15 years ago, could you? You would have thought that democracy had been resolved — not against African-Americans, but democracy as an institutional structure had been resolved . But that’s not the case, it’s not the case,” he said.
“We must choose a community over chaos. Will those of us who … choose love over hate? These are the important questions of our time and why I am here as your President, I believe.” Dr. King’s A life and a legacy show us the way, and we should heed,” Biden said.
He praised King and his legacy, noting that the civil rights pioneer was “born in a country where segregation was a tragic fact of life.”
Biden’s visit comes amid growing revelations about his handling of classified documents as vice president. The White House has faced growing criticism for its lack of transparency from the public over the discovery of classified material at Biden’s home and his former private office. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special prosecutor to take over the investigation of classified documents discovered at two sites linked to Biden.
On Sunday, Biden was invited by the current pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a Democratic senator to deliver a speech. Raphael Warnock, on King’s 94th birthday. Warnock, who recently distanced himself from Biden on the Georgia campaign, was elected to a full six-year term after an election in which polls showed a majority of voters disapproved of the president’s job performance.
At the church, Biden spoke about King’s legacy and a range of issues, including civil rights and voting rights.
“He has every reason to believe, as his generation has done, that history has already been written and that division will be America’s destiny — and he rejects that outcome,” Biden said. “A lot of times, when people Hearing about Dr. King, people think of his ministry and movement as primarily about the epic fight for civil rights and the right to vote. But we do well to remember that his mission was deeper – spiritual. This is moral.”
The speech comes as the president prepares plans for a possible re-election campaign with his advisers, making decisions about his political future. With the support of black voters, Biden narrowly defeated Georgia in 2020, and the state could play a key role in next year’s presidential race.
Ahead of Biden’s visit to Georgia, White House senior adviser on public engagement and former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the visit “a turning point” as the president’s voting rights agenda remains in limbo in Congress. stagnation.
“If you walk through the East Wing, you’ll see pictures of Dr. King meeting with Lyndon Johnson, meeting with other civil rights leaders, discussing voting rights at the White House — so we’re still talking about this here in 2023, I think It really speaks to the fact that we need to act, we need Congress to act,” Bottoms said.
“The president has and will continue to do everything his executive power can do, but there is only so much he can do. We need Congress to act,” she added.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a voting rights bill in 2021, but Senate Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to change the filibuster rules to pass the legislation, over opposition from moderate Democratic senators. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema has since become an independent agency while continuing to caucus with Democrats, and Republicans won control of the House after November’s midterm elections, further dashing hopes of a compromise on voting rights.
Bottoms defended the administration’s handling of the voting rights issue, telling reporters Friday that the Biden White House “has done everything we can from the executive branch” but that if further steps are taken to further address the issue, “we will These suggestions are welcome”
The White House said Biden was expected to meet with members of the King family and civil rights groups while in Atlanta.
King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 at the age of 39.
On Monday, as the nation honors King on his namesake holiday, Biden will deliver a keynote address during the National Action Network’s Martin Luther King, Jr. session. Breakfast in Washington DC at the invitation of the pastor. Al Sharpton.
This story has been updated.