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Notes For Remarks - Coretta Scott King Funeral

For Release: February 7, 2006
College Station, TX - Please note this is the prepared text Former President Bush used to make his remarks at the service for Coretta Scott King. This is not a transcript of the actual remarks. Former President Bush ad-libbed quite a bit during the speech.

Notes for Remarks
By President George Bush
Coretta Scott King Funeral
Atlanta, Georgia
February 7, 2006

Remarks/Five Minutes

Mr. President, members of the King family; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen ...

As we gather today to celebrate Coretta’s life, and the legacy she came to embody, we are reminded that time does indeed move quickly by.

There is much to celebrate in this day. Coretta Scott King lived a purposeful life – a life marked by strife and turmoil, as well as righteousness. She endured the saddest of human cruelties with greatest of grace, and by her steadfast determination she helped to grind away the falsehoods and ignorance that had too long been used to divide our society.

Our world is indeed a kinder and gentler place because Coretta Scott King walked among us.

Together with her husband, the unyielding moral force of their actions changed the course of history. Within 60 days of receiving the Nobel peace prize, for example, Dr. King once again found himself sitting in an Alabama jail, in Selma. Think about that: he had been the toast of the world, and repeatedly called to The White House. But to him, it was a fundamental human principle, not fame or power, that mattered most.

Every hour he sat in that cell, of course, Coretta suffered as well. Every step he and his followers subsequently made from Selma to the statehouse in Montgomery, she was right there by his side. No question: hour-by-hour, step-by-step, their selfless service helped to remove, brick-by-brick, the barrier to black enfranchisement.

As we know, progress came at great cost; but in the end, they were able to root out prejudice because they were never consumed by the bitterness they fought.
Indeed, as Dr. King declared upon completion of his historic march over 40 years ago, “Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. That will not be the day of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

I respected Coretta, like her husband, because they rejected race-baiting by those who opposed, as well as those who supported, the civil rights movement.

To be sure, I know she disagreed with me on many – okay, maybe most – of the decisions I made during my Presidency. Vetoing the 1990 Civil Rights Bill, to be sure, was one such occasion. But still she kept reaching out, just as I hope I did – and the result of such good faith efforts led to the Civil Rights Bill of 1991.

Again, there was a dignity – a grace – about the way Coretta carried herself.

For this, she is mourned and eternally respected by millions not only across America – but around the world. It was a privilege to know her, and to work with her, as we moved our Nation down the path to genuine national reconciliation.

But now that her strong and steady voice for justice has been silenced, it begs the question of young Americans: who will step up, and carry forward that message of hope and courage and equality?

We live in a world where, in too many dark corners, many still deny the Holocaust.

Who will stand up to their lies?

A few weeks ago, I had an uplifting experience that ties in with today. I saw a special screening of the movie Glory Road together with members of the Houston Rockets, and all of the surrounding college teams. And after the film, we went around the room to get observations from the student-athletes on hand.

Clearly, the film and its powerful message made a profound impact on our group. It not only reminded us how far our society has come: it also reminded us how, in countless ways large and small, we see the fruits of the labors of leaders like Martin and Coretta King all around us today.

After decades of denial, and division, and dubious lawmaking, these courageous figures stirred to life the “self-evident” truths and “unalienable rights” that, for too many segments of our society, had lain dormant beneath the dusty accumulation of ignorance and indifference.

We can take heart that, more than 50 years since the birth of the civil rights movement, tens of millions of Americans who were previously denied access to the American Dream are now fuller partners in our society. And yet, for as far as we have come, we know Coretta would encourage us to keep in mind how far we have yet to go.

Lord knows, she did her part. She led the way, stared down the hate-mongers, and showed us how to reach that day of “man as man.” That burden is now lifted, and Coretta has been called home to the Father.

We give thanks for her good life – a life that mattered, a life well lived.
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