At one point, Richard Berendzen, president of American University, said he even thought it was a little "chaotic."
As soon as Coretta Scott King walked into a reception last night at a church near AU, students, guests, security guards and friends stood shoulder to shoulder around her. They all wanted to shake her hand.
Before the reception crush, about 800 people packed the pews of the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church to hear King speak about "Women in the Changing World." She was one of several women speakers who are part of the spring semester symposium that includes Jeane Kirkpatrick, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter. The speakers were brought to AU by Jihan Sadat, wife of the slain Egyptian president.
"She must have an amazing black book," said Berendzen of Sadat at the reception, which took place in the church vestry.
King talked mostly about the civil rights movement but she started her speech by talking about Jihan Sadat.
"We have so much in common, as women," said King, "but we have something special as women who have shared great tragedy and also great triumphs, as wives of these two geat men. I feel it has been a great privilege to have shared so noble a life as that of Martin Luther King Jr. Certainly Anwar Sadat was one of my great heroes. And you are one of my great heroines," she said, turning to look at Sadat who was seated behind her.
King spoke for more than an hour and stressed the need for women in government.
"We have a responsibility but we also have an urge to protect that life we have had a part in creating. That's why it's important that women take part in decision making."
At the post-lecture reception, before King came in, guests stood by the cheese and crackers talking about the speech and the symposium. Most thought King was "great" or "amazing." One student mentioned that Nancy Reagan is scheduled to be the last speaker of the series.
"She'll have nothing to say," said Lisa Berberian, 21, an AU visual media communications major. "What does she have to say about anything except what her husband does?"
"What does she know?" said Betsy Brumit, 20, a public relations major, of the first lady. "She's been rich all her life. She wears $1,000 pajamas."
They were at the lecture because it means one credit for a course.
In her speech, one comment by King drew applause and laughter. "Yes, we lost the first round of ERA . . .," said King. "And any politician who tries to stand in the way of equal rights for women will soon be standing in the unemployment line."