Monday, January 17, 2005

Bill Clinton at his best

There is probably no more fitting a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. than Bill Clinton's speech of 1998 that Digby has published. It is pretty moving, even for an old curmudgeon like me.
Most of us who are old enough remember exactly where we were on Aug. 28, 1963 I was in my living room in Hot Springs, Ark.
(the day of MLK's "I have a dream" speech. ed)
I remember weeping uncontrollably during Martin Luther King's speech. And I remember thinking, when it was over, my country would never be the same and neither would I.

There are people all across this country who made a more intense commitment to the idea of racial equality and justice that day than they had ever made before. And so in very personal ways, all of us became better and bigger because of the work of those who brought that great day about.
And the words continue to echo down to the present day, spoken to us today by children who were not even alive then. And, God willing, their grandchildren will also be inspired and moved and become better and bigger because of what happened on that increasingly distant summer day.
Even if you're not a pacifist, whenever possible, peace and nonviolence is always the right thing to do.
The night before we took action against the terrorist operations in Afghanistan and Sudan, I was here on this island up till 2:30 in the morning trying to make absolutely sure that at that chemical plant there was no night shift. I believed I had to take the action I did, but I didn't want some person who was a nobody to me, but who may have a family to feed and a life to live, and probably had no earthly idea what else was going on there, to die needlessly. I learned that, and it's another reason we ought to pay our debt to the United Nations, because if we can work together, together we can find more peaceful solutions. Now I didn't learn that when I became President; I learned it from John Lewis and the civil rights movement a long time ago.

And the last thing I learned from them on which all these other things depend, without which we cannot build a world of peace or one America in an increasingly peaceful world bound together in this web of mutuality, is that you can't get there unless you're willing to forgive your enemies.
All of you know I'm having to become quite an expert in this business of asking for forgiveness. And I ----. It gets a little easier the more you do it. And if you have a family, an Administration, a Congress and a whole country to ask, you're going to get a lot of practice.

But I have to tell that in these last days it has come home to me again, something I first learned as President, but it wasn't burned in my bones -- and that is that in order to get it, you have to be willing to give it. And all of us -- the anger, the resentment, the bitterness, the desire for recrimination against people you believe have wronged you -- they harden the heart and deaden the spirit and lead to self-inflicted wounds.
And so it is important that we are able to forgive those we believe have wronged us, even as we ask for forgiveness from people we have wronged.

And I heard that first -- first -- in the civil rights movement. "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

It is almost inconceivable what 6 1/2 years have brought.

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