Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr., is one of four faith leaders slated to deliver an invocation Thursday to begin the historic closing night of the Democratic National Convention where for the first time, a woman has been chosen to lead a major party ticket.
It will be the second time that King has taken the stage at a DNC, as she follows a tradition established by her mother in 1984 when she spoke to endorse Democratic nominee Walter Mondale.
King, speaking from Philadelphia, said the Hillary Clinton campaign asked her to deliver an invocation that follows the theme of “Stronger, Together.”
What she will say exactly? God only knows.
“It is a prayer, so we still working through that. But whenever you have to go before people, especially in this climate, it can be very difficult in terms of knowing exactly what to say,” said King, CEO of the King Center in Atlanta. “But you feel a sense of burden and responsibly to say something that is going to awaken people to something important or help us bring civility to the environment. Because it is so tense in the world now.”
King is one of several people with Atlanta ties who have spoken in key slots during the convention, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Congressman John Lewis, State Rep. Stacy Abrams and Jason Carter.
“Several years ago, I was at a business conference, and I said that sometimes we talk about the year of the woman or the decade. But I think this is the century of the woman,” King said. “I have seen the emergence of women in all of these leadership positions. I think it is our time.”
Being on stage at a historic DNC is nothing new to King. In 2008, she, along with her brother Martin Luther King III, spoke at the convention that nominated the first African-American to lead a ticket, Barack Obama.
“It was very brief,” King said laughing at the memory. “It may have been like 25 seconds, which was an interesting amount of time to narrow down my life. It was a little different.”
King said the Clinton campaign has not given her time instructions yet, although she is scheduled to speak at around 4:30 p.m. from the convention stage.
She expects a warm reception, unlike the reception her mother received in 1984.
Some 24 years prior to Obama, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson became the first black man to make a serious run at the presidency finishing third in the primaries behind Mondale and Gary Hart.
In a forthcoming autobiography on Coretta Scott King due out in January, she described the 1984 convention as “very tense.”
“If you remember, that was the year that the Jackson delegation booed Andy (Young) because he endorsed Mondale. My mother also endorsed Mondale,” Bernice King said. “That was the last time my mother endorsed a candidate for president.”
Coretta Scott King, who also spoke at the 1988 convention in Atlanta, died in 2006, two years prior to the election of Obama.
Bernice King said she doubts if her mother would have changed her personal policies and publicly endorsed Obama or Clinton.
“But more than likely, she would have voted for them,” Bernice King said.