ATLANTA – President Joe Biden made a historic pilgrimage to “America’s Liberty Church” on Sunday to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., saying democracy was at a perilous time and that the civil rights leader’s life and legacy “were show the way” and we should pay attention.
As the first president to deliver a Sunday morning sermon at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Biden revealed that King himself once posed the question to the nation.
“He said, ‘Where do we go from here?'” Biden said from the stage. “Well, my message to this nation on this day is to move forward, move forward together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, love community over anarchy, when we choose believers and dreamers, doers, fearless , Always protect the faith.”
In a divided country two years after a violent insurrection, Biden told parishioners, elected officials and dignitaries that “the fight for the soul of this country is perennial. It is a constant struggle… between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice.
He spoke out against those trafficking “racism, extremism, insurgency” and said that the fight to defend democracy was taking place in the courts and at the ballot box, in protests and in other forms. “At our best, the American promise wins. … But I don’t have to tell you that we are not always at our best. We are fallible. We fail and fall.”
The stop at Ebenezer comes at a sensitive time for Biden after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday his appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate how the president handled confidential documents after he left the vice presidency in 2017. The White House revealed on Saturday that the records had been found. At Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.
Introducing Biden, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, the church’s senior pastor, said the president was “a devout Catholic” for whom “this Baptist service can be a little boisterous and lively. But I saw him clapping there.”
King, “the greatest American prophet of the 20th century,” as Warnock called it, served as co-pastor from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.
Warnock, like many state Democrats with battleground states seeking re-election in 2022, kept her distance during the Biden campaign as the president’s approval ratings plummeted and inflation rates soared.
But with the election behind her and a full six-year term ahead of her, Warnock has fully embraced Biden in the service. Near the end, he asked Biden to appear before the church and asked parishioners at Ebenezer to pray for the president as he listed Biden’s many legislative accomplishments.
Warnock said, “My friends, this is the work of God.”
As Biden turns his attention to his 2024 re-election effort, a lot of attention will be focused on Georgia.
In 2020, Biden managed to win Georgia, as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the black vote made up a disproportionate share of the Democratic electorate. Bringing in black voters in those states will be essential to Biden’s 2024 hopes.
The White House has tried to promote Biden’s agenda in minority communities. The White House noted efforts to encourage states to take equity into account in public works projects as they spend money from the government’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Biden’s word has also moved to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine crimes, ending a policy widely seen as racist.
The administration also highlights Biden’s work to diversify the federal judiciary, including the appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the confirmation of 11 black female judges on federal appeals courts, as well as They include the established judiciary. Powerful courts under all previous presidents combined.
Biden’s failure to pass a measure that would strengthen voting rights protections, a central campaign promise, is one of the biggest disappointments of his first two years in office. The task is even more difficult now that Republicans control the House.
In his remarks, the President said that despite all the progress America has made, the country has now reached a turning point in its history. He said that democracies may be regressing, noting the collapse of the institutional structures of democracy in places such as Brazil.
“Progress is never easy, but it is always possible, and things only get better as we move toward a more perfect union,” he said. “But at this critical juncture, we know that much work needs to continue on economic justice, civil rights, voting rights, protecting our democracy. And I remember that our work is to redeem the soul of America.”
Even after more than 50 years of his death, his ideas of fight and equality are still valid.
This moment, he said, “is the moment to choose. … Are we the kind of people who would choose democracy over autocracy? I couldn’t have asked that question 15 years ago because everyone thought democracy was established. … But it is not.” Americans, he said, “must choose community over anarchy. … These are the important questions of our time and I am here as your President. I believe the life and legacy of Dr. King show us the way and we should heed”.
King, born on January 15, 1929, was assassinated at the age of 39. He helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Members of the king’s family attended the service, including his 95-year-old father. Older sister, Christine King Farris.
Biden began his sermon by saying, “I’ve spoken in front of parliaments, kings, queens, world leaders … but it’s intimidating.”
The president plans to be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual breakfast on King’s leave.