Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Senate Chamber, 8:00PM January 19 th, 2015

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1 Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Senate Chamber, 8:00PM January 19 th, 2015 Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., NAACP Convention 1965 Mr. President, Members of the Senate, Constituents, Friends & Family, Good evening, I would like to give a personal historic perspective to my speech this evening. I came to this country in late As an immigrant born in Jamaica, West Indies, educated in Jamaica and England. I had heard my whole life about America the greatest country in the world and the land of opportunity. Oh yes, it is the land of opportunities, I can totally agree! What I discovered early

2 was that it was not for everyone. Black people or as we are now called, African-Americans in most cases were not afforded the same opportunities. The American I married in England came from the South. My eyes were wide open and my jaws hanging when I saw the colored only signs on my first visit to North Carolina. I was discouraged by racial discrimination in employment, housing, department stores, basic accommodations, lack of blacks in the police and fire departments, and civil rights in general. [My husband was one year older than I, and the son of a sharecropper. At 10 years old on Saturday morning he was working in the fields picking tobacco and cotton with his father, brothers, and sisters. They barely could make it, their everyday struggle was survival. At approximately the same age, on Saturday morning I was attending matinee at the Carib Theater in Kingston, Jamaica. My parents instilled education and service to the community. Our worlds were totally different. Yes, poverty exists in

3 Jamaica a 3 rd world country but I did not expect it to exist to that degree in America.] Fast forward to June 12, 1963 when Medgar Evers was gunned down. On August 28 th, 1963 was the March on Washington. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous I Have a Dream speech, he declared I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I was so upset that I could not be at the march because I had a new baby but it gave me hope to see so many people of all races standing together on the National Mall in the name of peace. The theme of the day was The time of Civil Rights for all is now. Shortly after that was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Then came the signing of the Civil Rights Act by LBJ in the presence of MLK, then the March for the voting rights act in Selma, and then another MLK led march in Memphis, Tennessee to support garbage collectors. After giving his famous I have Been to the Mountain Top Speech where he stated

4 my eyes have seen the coming of the lord, Doctor King was assassinated the next day. On TV I saw Attorney General Robert Kennedy holding Coretta Scott King at the funeral. Two months later, Robert Kennedy was assassinated as well. What a turbulent and tumultuous time for anyone to come to this country. My heart was broken as was that of many Americans both black and white. Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. This blessed man of faith and vision, born January 15 th, 1929 for a time as that. A minister, a preacher of non-violence, a lover of humankind, an activist for the garbage collectors, the underprivileged, the disadvantaged, the poor, the uninsured, he fought for the man who had no voice. He led the Civil Rights Movement in these United States. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. instilled values towards community in service. His life and speeches resonated throughout my young adult life, and many of yours as well some of you were not yet born. It has been stated,

5 that MLK Jr., has been dead longer than he lived. At age 33, he was pressing the case for civil rights with JFK. At 34, he gave his I have a dream speech. At 35 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. And at 39 on April 4, 1968 he was assassinated. He was a remarkable man who left a legacy of nonviolence, hope, and inspiration that is still felt today. What would he think of the violence worldwide and in our state and country? Had he lived, he would be on his knees praying. As the saying goes, I am almost sure he is turning over in his grave. As a young nurse, I developed a passion for the underserved, the uninsured, the poor, the sick, the elderly, the incarcerated, and the fight for the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities by reducing the morbidity and mortality rate (disease and death) in our state and in the nation, and to achieve health equity. In the late 1970s, I visited the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sat in his church in Georgia. That was an awesome feeling.

6 On June 20 th, 1965 Dr. King visited my homeland Jamaica and delivered a talk at the University of the West Indies on Facing the Challenges of the New Age. He spoke about the need to fight any kind of injustice with love, and a need for us all to strive to be the best that we can be at whatever we choose to do in our lives. The time is always right to do right. It is worth mentioning that he also said of all the places in the world, I feel most at home in Jamaica among my sisters and brothers. [Later that day he visited the grave of Jamaican hero Marcus Garvey with his wife, Coretta, and later that night he gave a final speech to a jam-packed standing room only arena.] Designated in 1983, MLK Day is the only Federal holiday that honors a private American citizen. I, like you, have witnessed this continuing struggle for civil rights and a tragic series of events. As Dr. King reminded us Life s most persistent and urgent question is What are we doing for others? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived a life that mattered. He stated our lives begin

7 and end the day we become silent about things that matter. We should do no less. I thank you. #####

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