Accepting an award from The King Center on Saturday, former President Bill Clinton spoke of a modern “beloved community” — King’s vision for a world achieved through peaceful nonviolence — to inspire youth and curb global acts of terror.
Referencing recent attacks, Clinton spoke of the dangers in a “shame-based” cultures, saying “they are a curse on the young.”
“The young need to believe, and they need to believe somebody’s got their back and wants them to live up to their God-given capacity,” he said. “We must stop raising them in shame and raise them in pride.”
The King Center is honoring Clinton during its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance this weekend.
On Saturday he received the center’s highest honor, the Salute to Greatness Award, for his work with The Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Hillary Clinton, widely seen as the likely Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential election, did not attend the awards dinner at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta.
The Salute to Greatness Awards dinner is one of several key events during a 10-day celebration of King’s life. On Monday, the King Center will host its commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church to celebrate his legacy, and that of his late wife, Coretta Scott King.
Speaking to a sold-out crowd, Clinton referenced sequencing the human genome as a key achievement of his second term at the White House, noting to the diverse audience that barring age-related differences, humans are genetically “99.5 percent the same.”
“It’s a fool’s error not to spend more of our lives times focusing on those things we have in common,” he said. “That is the only way to create a beloved community and turn our differences into advantage, and that is what this is about.”
Kaiser Permanente, led by CEO Bernard Tyson, was also recognized by The King Center for its work promoting diversity in the workplace and philanthropic efforts. King’s sister, Dr. Christine King Farris, received a “legacy of service” award for her work in helping establish The King Center. The awards program also honored hotelier Harris Rosen for his educational community service initiative, Tangelo Park Program, in Orlando; and local teen Aidan Hornaday, who raises money for charity through music.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and Channel 2 Action News anchor Jovita Moore emceed the event. The hosts had a little fun with Mayor Kasim Reed, whose habit of engaging and blocking readers on Twitter has garnered attention.
Introducing Reed to the packed house, Moore joked: “Don’t mess with him on Twitter.”
Blitzer later added: “Those of us who follow you…are fully aware of your excellent capabilities on social media.”
Reed, who took the jokes in stride, told the crowd that King’s legacy has been vital in building Atlanta as the “economic and cultural hub of the Southeast.”
The mayor said King’s legacy is felt worldwide, adding that during his November trip to Rome to celebrate the Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, he was “struck by how many Nobel laureates cited Martin Luther King Jr. as the reason for their work.”
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