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Kennedy to Deliver Eulogy Honoring the Life of Coretta Scott King

Location: Lithonia, GA


Kennedy Chairs the Senate Delegation Traveling to Services Today

Lithonia, Georgia—Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy will deliver a eulogy at the funeral services of Coretta Scott King. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid asked Kennedy to lead the Senate Delegation in paying respect to the wife of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who passed away last week. Senator Kennedy has known Mrs. King for decades and worked with her to pass the landmark holiday honoring the birth of Martin Luther King.

Below are the remarks Senator Kennedy will deliver at today's funeral services, embargoed until delivery.


It is a very great honor -- and a very great sorrow -- to join in this tribute to our sister, Coretta Scott King.

We honor her of course for her partnership with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They say marriages are made in heaven, and this marriage certainly was. It was also made in Boston -- 53 years ago -- where a beautiful young woman with a beautiful soprano voice who had come to the New England Conservatory of Music to learn to be a concert singer met a young divinity student earning his doctorate degree in theology. The music they heard was more than music, the bread they broke was more than bread, and the history they made together changed the world.

But we honor her as well for the person she was in her own right. Coretta marched to the drum-beat of justice, sang for the cause of freedom, and preached fairness for the oppressed. Her legacy will forever stand as a monument in the heart and soul of our nation and in the pages of our history.

The Book of Proverbs asks, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" "Strength and honour are her clothing . . . . She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." America found that ideal in Coretta Scott King.

It was an extraordinary privilege for me to have the chance to know her. She showed me, as she showed us all, what it means to overcome -- not only, as the spiritual says, "some day" -- but every day.

She overcame when her husband was jailed in October 1960 and given an incomprehensible sentence of four months of hard labor in a rural penitentiary for a minor traffic violation. The situation was ominous, and many feared for his life. I remember my brother, President Kennedy, calling her to say he would do whatever was necessary to help. Robert Kennedy called the judge, the next day, and miraculously Martin was released. In that difficult time and in countless similar times, in the years that followed, Coretta was a constant pillar of strength.

Even in the face of the sharpest slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, she was able to overcome and become a symbol of the triumph of hope over hate.

She became not only a national presence, but an international icon, opposing apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s with the same fervor that she had challenged prejudice in America in the 1960s. She knew deep in her heart that none of us are free until we all are free.

Coretta was also an extraordinary mother, who raised her children in troubled and turbulent times without a father. I was honored to have the chance to know her children, and she made a special point to make sure that each of them grew up with a sense of dignity, a sense of the worth of the individual, and a sense of obligation to others. Yolanda, Martin, Dexter, and Bernice are strong men and women in their own right, who have made a difference themselves and who carry on the noble tradition of their parents.

There were countless times along the way when it seemed the nation might never relinquish the old traditions of prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. We who lived through those years recall Coretta as a remarkable combination of power and peacefulness. In the face of her constant courage, her unshakable faith, her inner strength, and quiet grace, even Jim Crow had to yield.

For decades, she was an inspiration to us as we worked in Congress to enact and uphold the civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in education, jobs, and housing. The magnificent King Center here in Atlanta is a monument to her as well. I had the honor of working with her on the landmark legislation to make the birthday of her husband a national holiday. Then too, her quiet persistence prevailed. Only three Americans in our history have been given that high honor -- George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King -- and Coretta made it happen.

The words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount describe her best: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Truly Coretta Scott King was blessed in each of these ways.

We know how much the nation still has to do to live up to her ideals. But we know that, thanks to her inspiration and that of her husband, eventually we will reach the promised Land. And we rejoice that she and Martin are already there, together again. We know they will always be there to inspire us in our journey, and we know they will never leave us.

Thank you, Coretta Scott King, for all you taught us and all you gave us.

With renewed spirit, we carry on your work -- confident that we shall overcome.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

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