Congressman David E. Price Remarks Garner Martin Luther King Celebration Durham Unity March and Rally

January 16, 2018

Remarks as delivered.

I’m honored to join you here today in this celebration of Dr. King’s life and teachings and to reaffirm our determination to honor his legacy with renewed commitment and service.

On this day we are reminded of the impact Dr. King had on us, individually and as a community. He and the movement he led opened our eyes and shaped our lives, for which we will be forever grateful.

Looking back over the years, we take stock of how far we have come as a nation toward ending institutionalized discrimination and understanding the strength that comes with diversity. But we have an equally powerful sense of how far we’re falling short, of the momentum we’ve lost and of the grave dangers we face.

Many still practice the politics of division and benefit from an unjust status quo. There are still concerted efforts to roll back the progress we’ve made, to neglect glaring gaps of opportunity, and to disenfranchise or intimidate some from participating in our democracy.

This holiday observance each year is not about nostalgia or vague good will as we confront these challenges. In fact, Dr. King’s words often come as a sharp rebuke. Remember that when he was killed he was on the front lines of economic justice, fighting for better pay and working conditions for Memphis garbage workers.

The measuring sticks that King applied are quite straightforward: what have we done for those Jesus called “the least of these”? And how far have we moved toward the “beloved community,” whereby we realize that “we’re all in this together” and refuse to see anyone left out or left behind?

How do North Carolina and our country measure up today? What do you make of a tax bill so heavily skewed toward the privileged? Or of our country almost totally turning its back on desperate refugees? Or of the refusal to extend health insurance to the millions who need it and cutting back coverage for millions more? Or of the waiting lists for affordable housing numbering thousands in every major American city?

Dr. King’s verdict, I’m afraid, would be the same that Babylonian King Belshazzar saw handwritten on the wall: “you have been weighted in the balance and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27)

Yet, we also remember Dr. King’s optimism, his conclusion that while “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Dr. King knew that progress did not come without setbacks, or without the hard work of those with conviction, and he charged us to forge ahead, making God’s work on earth our own.

So let us use this day to be grateful for those on whose shoulders we stand. Let us reaffirm our deepest convictions, summon the determination to rebuke the voices of hate and division, and redouble our efforts to realize the dream, the American dream, for which Dr. King was and still is our most eloquent spokesman.