Martin Luther King Day Speech 2012

Transcript of the King Day at the Dome address by NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous at the South Carolina State Capitol Monday, January 16 2012.

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Good morning!

It is an honor to be here today with so many beautiful South Carolinians who are committed to justice.

I am proud to stand here with Dr. Lonnie Randolph, President of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, as well so many other NAACP leaders from throughout the Southeast.

I am also pleased to be in South Carolina with Dr. Brenda Williams, an inspired activist, whose family has belonged to the NAACP for generations, who has spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars helping her fellow South Carolinians get birth certificates and photo IDs so that they can vote.

It is also a special honor to be here today with Attorney General Holder.  Thank you for representing President Obama’s administration.  Thank you for being such a fierce defender of our nation, its Constitution, and its entire citizen’s right to vote.

When I look at a crowd like this, I am reminded there is good reason why for 103 years the NAACP has never asked “if we will win” but only “when we will win”.

It’s been quite a year. We have survived the greatest prolonged unemployment since the Great Depression, the greatest attacks on voting rights since segregation, attacks on immigration that would make lady liberty blush, and attacks on education so great that they should make every parent cry.

If history has taught us anything, it is that attacks on voting rights and attacks on the rest of our rights are VERY connected.

Simply put, your right to vote is the right upon which your ability to defend all of your other rights depends. When people come after your right to vote, it is usually to make it easier to come after so many of your other rights that you may actually hold dearer.

This is why Jim Crow started with voter suppression. This is why the “Southern Strategy” started with voter suppression. And this is why in this moment; when so many of our rights are under attack in so many places all at once, anti-civil rights, anti-human rights extremists are seeking to suppress our vote.

But…we were each made for a purpose, we each got up this morning with a purpose, and we are each here together for a purpose:  doing justice, building unity, and furthering the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the organization in which he was raised, the NAACP.

It is hard work.

It is important work.

But most importantly …  It is urgently-needed work.

But you know, sometimes even when you’re doing God’s work you can’t help but get a little tired.

I’ll tell you right now…

I am a little tired of foreclosure signs;

I am a little tired of seeing so many of our neighbors stuck in job lines;

Tired of racial profiling;

Tired of our students being under educated, over indebted, and over incarcerated;

Tired of seeing immigrants used as whipping boys and scapegoats;

Tired of seeing the world’s greediest financiers get away with reaping extreme profits off the poor;

Tired of politicians attacking our neighbors’ right to vote;


Tired of seeing THAT FLAG whenever we come to THIS CAPITOL. (Governor Haley knows what it stands for, why it was hoisted up here 58 years ago, and that it needs to come down today.)

In short, I am tired of dealing with so-called leaders who have been all too quick to talk out of one side of their mouth about celebrating Dr. King’s legacy, while doing all they can out of the other side of their mouth to block his dream from becoming a reality.

But just because we are tired, don’t let anyone think we have grown weary in well doing.

We are on fire for justice.

We will keep fighting until all who want to work can find a job and all who have a job can afford a decent home.

We will keep fighting until all our nation’s children can get the education they deserve.

And when it comes to our right to vote we will not let any unjust law–or any person for that matter– turn us around.

What is more, we are winning even in places where people said it was impossible.  In the past year, we have shut down a prison in Texas, shut down a major re segregation effort in North Carolina, stopped voter ID bills in several states, and preserved workers’ right to organize in Ohio.

Let us, in this moment, rededicate ourselves to continuing to defeat the deeds of those who would defy the Dreamer, but desecrate the Dream.

Let us, in this moment, recommit to winning the nonviolent war on poverty Dr. King was waging when he was assassinated.

And let us, in this moment, renew our will to keep on fighting until we win our biggest battles – including right here in South Carolina.

Finally, in this moment, let us choose to keep on winning across this nation until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”


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