Attending the Memorial Service of Coretta Scott King
Submitted by Chris Dodd on February 10, 2006 - 9:33am.

I’m so glad that I went to Coretta Scott King’s funeral. I admire, as most Americans do, the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, but I also really admire Coretta Scott King. It’s hard for people to remember this, but Dr. King died before he reached the age of 40, and for the last 38 years, Mrs. King has carried on the work of her husband. Her husband’s civil rights work lasted for about fifteen years, and his most important work occurred in the last few years of his life. Mrs. King sustained that work for almost four decades after her husband’s death, and did it with such grace, such style, and such dignity. That was the reason there was such an outpouring of people from across the United States, representing almost every walk of life, at the church service outside of Atlanta.

I was there as part of a delegation that went down from the United States Senate. Members of the House of Representatives, members of the clergy, people from the entertainment industry, civil rights leaders—every major civil rights activist was there—and four American presidents, including the sitting president of the United States, and his wife, sat for three hours at this service.

President Bush’s attendance at the service says a lot of good things. While I disagree with him often, and we’ve had huge disagreements on legislative matters, and will continue to, I appreciate the fact that he was there. I appreciate what he said. He offered an appropriate and dignified eulogy for Mrs. King, and the congregation and those who were there responded accordingly to his words and his remarks. Indeed, President Bush’s father’s presence there also meant a great deal, as did that of President and Senator Clinton. Senator Kennedy did a terrific job as well.

I’m very glad to have been a part of this final farewell to Mrs. King. Her contribution to our world was deep and profound, and our country is grateful. It shows how far as a nation we’ve come. I was trying to imagine whether or not there would have been a similar kind of outpouring forty years ago, and frankly I doubt it. While there was a service for Dr. King, I don’t think forty years ago we would have had four living presidents, including the sitting president—and such a huge turnout on such an occasion. And so the situation has gotten better in many ways. We still have a long ways to go, and we all know that. However, it’s a compliment and a tribute to Coretta Scott King that we’ve continued to make this journey forward, and while there are things that are still wrong, there’s a lot more that’s been made right—because of her, because of her husband, because of people like Jesse Jackson, Dr. Lowery, and many others who were there at the service—kicking down the doors of bigotry and prejudice and discrimination, trying to create that more perfect union that our forbears and founders described to us in the earliest documents of our nation.

I feel grateful as a human being to have been alive and present at a very fine tribute for a very fine person, Coretta Scott King.