Martin Luther King III criticizes war - Catholic Courier

Martin Luther King III criticizes war

ROCHESTER — The war in Iraq is diverting America from developing its citizenry and assisting the poor, according to Martin Luther King III, son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

During a Jan. 27 speech at the University of Rochester, King said the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on the war would be better spent on education and health care.

“How many young people could we send to college if we spent this money on education?” he asked rhetorically. “For every billion dollars we cut from our military, we could provide health care for 800,000 children.”

He added that the nation needs to “break its addiction to Mideast oil” and focus on developing renewable energy sources.

King also briefly spoke of his mother’s illness, thanking the public for its concern for her health. Coretta Scott King died in Atlanta Jan. 31.

Hundreds of people filled Strong Auditorium for King’s speech, which concluded a two-week series of events at the university celebrating his father’s birthday. The campus’ Catholic community participated in a multifaith service Jan. 19 to celebrate King’s legacy, according to Father Brian Cool, the university’s Catholic chaplain.

King — who was 10 when his father was shot to death in 1968 — currently serves as chief executive officer and president of The King Center in Atlanta. The center was founded in 1968 to preserve the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s legacy and offers nonviolence programs as well as promotes community-service initiatives.

In contrast to some of his siblings, King noted he does not want the National Park Service to take over the center to stabilize its funding stream, as has been proposed.

“I oppose the Iraq war,” he said. “If the government buys the center, will I still be able to say, ‘This is wrong’?”

From 1998-2003, King was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization that his father cofounded in 1957. King noted that progress had been made in implementing his father’s dream of racial equality, but he added that he believes that there is still work to be done. For example, he said, the criminal-justice system needs to refocus on rehabilitation and police need to eradicate racism in their approach to juvenile delinquents.

“If officers pick up young black people, they take them off to jail,” he said. “When police officers, black or white, pick up young white folk, they take them to their parents.”

King criticized some elements of the hip-hop music community for teaching young people to celebrate incivility and ignorance.

He also criticized the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. He noted that Alito, who was confirmed to the court Jan. 31, had been a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, an organization that criticized affirmative action for minorities and the admission of women to Princeton. During the recent Senate hearings on his nomination, Alito’s defenders said his connection with CAP was minimal, and Alito himself has denounced the group’s purported opposition to minorities’ and women’s admission to Princeton. Nonetheless, King was critical of Alito.

“The man has demonstrated that he believes in elitism,” King said. “U.S. senators have the audacity to justify it.”

King also criticized the administrations of both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush for failing to adequately fund the levee system that failed when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

“We need to learn that playing politics with needed infrastructure repairs is a bad idea,” King said.

As for his father’s legacy, King noted that nonviolent protest has been used around the world to topple tyranny in Russia, Eastern Europe and South Africa. He added that he hopes nonviolence also could be used to bring positive change in China and the Middle East.

Despite his oft-serious tone, King made some humorous remarks that drew laughter from the audience. At the beginning of his speech, he alluded to the city’s unusually mild January weather.

“It’s certainly special to be here when y’all got a heat wave,” he said as the crowd laughed.

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