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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
By Aamer Madhani, Associated Press Reporter

Americans should pay attention to Martin Luther King’s legacy, says Biden

Joe Biden speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Joe Biden has made a historical pilgrimage to “America’s freedom church” to mark Martin Luther King’s birthday.

The US President said democracy was at a perilous moment and that the civil rights leader’s life and legacy “show us the way and we should pay attention”.

As the first sitting president to deliver a Sunday morning sermon at Mr King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Mr Biden cited the telling question that Mr King himself once asked of the nation.

“He said, ‘Where do we go from here?’,” Mr Biden said from the pulpit. “Well, my message to this nation on this day is we go forward, we go together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos, when we choose believers and the dreams, to be doers, to be unafraid, always keeping the faith.”

President Joe Biden at Ebenezer Baptist Church (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In a divided country only two years removed from a violent insurrection, he said “the battle for the soul of this nation is perennial”.

He told congregants, elected officials and dignitaries: “It’s a constant struggle… between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice.”

He spoke out against those who “traffick in racism, extremism, insurrection” and said the struggle to protect democracy was playing out in courthouses and ballot boxes, protests and other avenues.

“At our best, the American promise wins out… But I don’t need to tell you that we’re not always at our best. We’re fallible. We fail and fall.”

People attend a service honouring Martin Luther King at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The stop at Ebenezer comes at a delicate moment for Mr Biden after attorney general Merrick Garland on Thursday announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate how the president handled classified documents after leaving the vice presidency in 2017.

The White House on Saturday revealed that additional classified records were found at Mr Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.

In introducing Mr Biden, the church’s senior pastor, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, noted that the president was “a devout Catholic” for whom “this Baptist service might be a little bit rambunctious and animated. But I saw him over there clapping his hands”.

Mr King, whom Senator Warnock called “the greatest American prophet of the 20st century”, served as co-pastor from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.

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