By Tammy Haddad
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Rev. Bernice King, the youngest child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, sat down for an interview with washingtonpost.com in advance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King, a minister at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., discussed how the election of Barack Obama intersects with the vision her father voiced, of a nation where people "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Following are excerpts from the interview; it will be shown in full tomorrow during Washington Post/Newsweek's live video coverage of Inauguration Day.
Tammy Haddad: Is [your father's] dream realized with the inauguration of Barack Obama?
Bernice King: I think Barack Obama's inauguration is a significant milestone in the work and vision that my father cast when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. I believe that we still have a lot of work to do, which relates to racial equality and economic equality and even in the other areas my father talked about: the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism. . . . We have a lot of work to do in that regard in this nation and around the world.
TH: Does it turn a corner?
BK: . . . Oh, yes, I think the inauguration actually lays the foundation and the groundwork for continuing my father's unfinished work. I think President-elect Obama has created a sincere and genuine atmosphere of change. It forwards people an opportunity to really step into that change, to look at the ways they perhaps have been doing things that have hindered the progress of America, whether it's corporate, or whether it's educational, or whether it's any other kind of institution, or even individually. . . . We've moved to a new chapter in our history. We cannot, and I say this loudly, we cannot go back to business as usual.
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TH: Have you met President[-elect] Obama?
BK: Oh, yes. Yes.
TH: And what advice have you given him?
BK: We didn't chat along those lines at the time. This was right before Super Tuesday, and one of the things that, you know, he shared with me was this: his concern on being out on the road so much and being away from his daughters, that was a major transition for him. And you know, my heart went out to him, but especially [to] his daughters because . . . with my father being away so much during . . . all of my life, predominantly, and then losing him -- you know, I could certainly empathize with the shoes that they are in.
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TH: Bernice, what message did you give your followers after Barack Obama was elected in November?
BK: On my Web site, http://www.berniceking.com, people can go there and hear the message. I was speaking at my congregation, New Birth in Lithonia. It was right after the election, as a matter of fact. . . . I said look, um, if you have not already changed your mind -- because the real change was a change of mind, a change of perspective, a change of focus -- then you've already been left behind.
So I said we have to make sure that we are in alignment with the change that Obama talked about. I also mentioned that I think this is a significant accomplishment for African Americans, in particular African American men. And I stood the men up, and I spoke something to them prophetically, and I won't say anything more about that. But people can go to that Web site and hear that message.