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Sen. Begich Statement on Dr. King Remembrance Day

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is urging Alaskans to join him in remembering the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sen. Begich is in Alaska for the Dr. King holiday weekend to attend a number of events. The following is a statement taken from some of the remarks Sen. Begich will deliver at these events:

“Each year we gather in towns and cities across the country to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s tireless work for social change and dignity for all. Now that I’ve been in Washington a couple of years as one of Alaska’s senators, I believe I better appreciate both Dr. King’s struggle, and his enormous accomplishments.

“When we visit the Lincoln Memorial and walk up those tall granite steps, turning back to look down the Mall at the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, it’s frankly a little intimidating to visualize that vast expanse crowded with thousands of Americans gathered to witness Dr. King deliver his most famous speech in that hot summer of 1963 – “I have a dream.”

“Today, nearly half a century later, Dr King’s dream is needed more than ever in our country.

“Not just his dream of true civil rights, but also his approach to thoughtful dialogue, forceful debate and even civil disobedience. Just a week ago, our nation was shaken by the tragic shootings in Tucson. Along with the horror of the moment, we are reminded of the terrible legacy of violence in this country toward our leaders.

“In the aftermath of Arizona, we remember the not-so-distant tragedies of the Kennedys, of Dr. King and Malcolm X, of the attempts on Presidents Ford and Reagan. Unfortunately, some Americans will shrug their shoulders and say Tucson and the other tragedies are simply the acts of deranged individuals.  That this is the terrible price we sometimes pay for personal liberty and strong constitutional rights.

“There is, of course, some truth to that. But that line of thinking is also the easy way out.  The tougher work – the necessary work – is to take a hard look at how we engage in political discourse in this country. To reassess how we can disagree and still move forward.

“Should we Alaskans be less passionate in our views? No. Do we need to shield our community and elected leaders? No. Should we keep quiet when we disagree with politicians? Of course not – we’re Alaskans and cherish our right to speak freely.

“But I think we can agree on the need for more civility. We can truly listen to other points of view. We can perhaps study the facts just a moment longer before starting to yell.

“I can think of no better model than Dr. King.  He sometimes disagreed with his government, and strongly.  He opposed many of the elected leaders of the day.  He advocated for and performed acts of civil disobedience. Yet two important words were always part of his vocabulary: respect and nonviolence.

“Today, in the wake of the tragedy in Arizona, we all need to remember those two words: respect and nonviolence. There is no better way to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

NOTE: Sen. Begich is attending and speaking at the communitywide celebration in Anchorage this afternoon.

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