Biden honors Martin Luther King in speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Washington, Jan 15 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Sunday attended a memorial service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and delivered a speech there in which he said that the United States and the world are passing through a critical moment and emphasized the need to keep fighting for democracy.

Although he did not refer to the crisis sparked by the recent finding of a number of classified documents at his home and office, the president spoke about darkness and redemption, saying “The battle for the soul of this nation is perennial. It’s a constant struggle … between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice, against those who traffic in racism, extremism and insurrection. And at our best, the American promise wins out.”

On the day on which the slain civil rights leader would have turned 94, Biden became the first serving US president to speak at a Sunday service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Dr. King served as pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968 and where his funeral was held.

The president said that it was “intimidating” and “humbling” to speak before the church congregation and deliver a sermon at the church once led by Dr. King, who he called one of his two great political heroes alongside Robert F. Kennedy.

Biden spoke from the pulpit surrounded by a gospel choir that performed several hymns at the service officiated by the current church pastor, Democratic US Sen. Raphael Warnock.

In a speech filled with Biblical allusions, Biden – a practicing Catholic – said that the US and the world are at an “inflection point,” adding that “Things do get better in our march toward a more perfect union. But … we know there’s a lot of work that has to continue on economic justice, civil rights, voting rights, protecting our democracy. And I’m remembering that our job is to redeem the soul of America.”

He also said that what happens over the next six or eight years will determine how the world will be for the next 30, adding that the world is changing and much is at stake.

Biden also said that this is a time to choose democracy over autocracy.

With this public event, Biden closed out a tough week during which the White House had to confirm, three times, that classified documents had been found among the president’s papers which he had improperly retained at his home and office from 2009-2017, when he served as vice president under Barack Obama.

This case could complicate the last two years of his term in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election, although he has not yet specified whether he will seek reelection.

Last Thursday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced his appointment of a special counsel – conservative jurist Robert Hur – who will examine all classified documents that have been found among Biden’s papers.

Publicly, the president has spoken only twice about this situation, which erupted last Monday, although the documents had been found last November.

At a press conference called to discuss inflation, when questioned by reporters, Biden said that he was certain that the whole matter will be cleared up.

Both the White House and Biden himself have insisted that he has been completely forthcoming in cooperating with the investigation and have tried to distinguish this case from that of former President Donald Trump, Biden’s Republican predecessor, who is also being investigated by the Department of Justice for retaining classified documents at his Florida Mar-a-Lago residence.

Neither Trump nor Biden should have had classified documents in their possession since US law dictates that all presidential records be turned over to the National Archives, but possession of such documents in itself is not a crime if it cannot be shown that they were purposefully hidden.

In Biden’s case, it was his own attorneys who advised US authorities that they had found classified documents, while in Trump’s case they were seized after an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, an operation launched at the request of the National Archives, which had already been trying to recover those documents from Trump for more than a year.

In his speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church, before introducing Biden, Sen. Warnock recalled that while former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama had visited the church, Biden was the first serving president to deliver the Sunday sermon at a service held one day before Dr. King’s birthday will be celebrated and which is a federal holiday.

Although Biden has not yet stated whether he will seek reelection in 2024, the event on Sunday was very significant if he does decide to do so because it was held in Georgia, a key state that helped him win the White House in 2020, as well as at an emblematic site for the African American community and the defense of civil rights.

According to a study published by the Pew Research Center, African American voters played an important role in last November’s midterm elections.

In Georgia, for example, the represent a third of all registered voters.

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