Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
At the end of a ceremony that evoked many memories and some tears at the White House Tuesday, President Jimmy Carter joined hands with members of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s family and sang five choruses of "We Shall Overcome."
The singing of the civil rights anthem and the swaying back and forth with black and white hands crossed was a moment reminiscent of many of the highs and lows of the 1960s. The president stood on stage in the East Room with the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., Coretta Scott King and Christine King Farris, along with Henry Ford II. Andrew Young and Rosalynn Carter.
In the audience were 300 friends of the King family, veteran civil rights workers and business and labor leaders who were at the White House to support an $8-million drive to complete a portion of the King Center for Social Change in Atlanta. Henry Ford, chairman of the board of Ford Motor Co., heads the drive.
In a thoughtful historical review of the role of nonviolent movements, Carter said King "helped us overcome our ignorance of one another in a period of great hostility and social change, when some of us compromised too much, others not enough."
Backed by the Morehouse College Glee Club, which King belonged to as a student, Coretta King, widow of the slain civil rights leader, reviewed the civil rights movement in words and songs. Mrs. King, who studied classical music and dreamt of a concert career as a singer, before her marriage, performed a "Freedom Concert" during the 1960s. Except for one concert during the bicentennial year, she had not performed since 1968.
She was visibly nervous as she talked of the years from the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955 until her husband's assassination in Memphis 10 years ago. By the closing number. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," she seemed relaxed, even jubilant. Then she encouraged everyone to sing the refrains of "We Shall Overcome."
Immediately after the ceremony, John Lewis, the movement veteran who is now associate director of ACTION, spoke of the irony. "I was sitting here comparing Carter's action to Lyndon Johnson's, who complained that his daughter, Lucy, couldn't sleep because we were singing that song during a vigil in Lafayette Park right before Selma."