Monday’s service was sponsored by the King Center and featured dozens of singers and speakers, including President-elect Joe Biden, who appeared virtually in keeping with social distancing protocols due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
In his remarks to the audience Monday, Biden spoke of visiting the site in Memphis where King had been assassinated, leaving the work of his day, and of his lifetime, unfinished.
“You could feel the restless spirit of a dream deferred,” Biden said of King’s hotel room, which has been preserved as it was the day he died.
“It’s our responsibility as Americans to bring peace to that restless spirit,” Biden said.
This year’s King Day service came during another tumultuous time for the country, days before Biden’s inauguration and less than two weeks after a mob of President Donald Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Bernice King, the CEO of the King Center, talked about police brutality, the violence in Washington and the virus in her call to the audience to choose chaos or community, in her father’s words.
“Humanity beckons us all across the globe with a sense of urgency to shift in this hour to save the very soul of our world,” she said.
Texas megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes gave the keynote speech. Jakes told the audience gathering to celebrate Dr. King Monday that there will likely never be another leader like him.
“Amid the many, many years of people asking, ‘Who is the next MLK?’ I would suggest to you that there will probably never ever be another Dr. Martin Luther King,” Jakes said.
“It is not one of us but it is, in fact, all of us that are called to respond to face the challenges of our time with the same ferocity and the same intensity and the same fervency of spirit,” Jakes said.
The annual King Day celebration in Atlanta typically brings church leaders, governors, senators and even presidents to Ebenezer to celebrate King’s legacy.
For the first time, one of their own clergy was on the verge of becoming a senator himself after Warnock, running as a Democrat, defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff election earlier this month.
Democrat Jon Ossoff also defeated former Sen. David Perdue for state’s other Senate seat.
When they are sworn-in to the Senate, likely later this week, Ossoff will become Georgia’s first Jewish senator, while Warnock will become the first Black Democratic senator from the South.
Together, they will also flip control of the Senate from Republican to Democrat once Biden is inaugurated and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris becomes the chamber’s tie-breaking vote.
No matter the party in control, Warnock said Monday his journey from poverty to the pulpit to Congress should give hope to people about what is possible in America.
“Regardless of your politics, you have to rejoice when you think about the full arc of our country,” he said. “To think that the other day my own mother, who grew up...picking somebody else’s cotton, got to pick her son to be a United States senator.”