President Bush may have tried to claim a little bit of the legacy of Coretta Scott King with a warm and generous reference to her at the opening of his State of the Union address this week, but it should be remembered that King was a foe of this president and a frequent critic of his abuses of power.
On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, King celebrated the anniversary of the birth of her late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by recalling that the slain civil rights leader had been outspoken in his opposition to unnecessary and unwise wars.
"We commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. as a great champion of peace who warned us that war was a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful tomorrow. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. Martin said, 'True peace is not just the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice,' " Coretta King told a crowd that had gathered at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. She continued, "May his challenge and his example guide and inspire us to seek peaceful alternatives to a war with Iraq and military conflict in the Middle East."
Coretta King continued to speak out against the Bush administration's policy of pre-emptive war-making, and she always make it clear that she disagreed passionately with this president.
Coretta Scott King ponders a reporter's question in front of a painting of her late husband, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in this Jan. 14, 2003 file photo from Atlanta.
When Bush showed up to lay a wreath at the Rev. King's grave in January 2004, Coretta King was polite but pointed in her remarks. Before greeting Bush, she said at another event at Ebenezer Baptist that she sided with those who opposed the war rather than supported it, and she lamented the fact that "those people are not in charge of making the policies of their nations. If they were," she added, "I think we would have more peace and more justice."
There will be many celebrations of Coretta Scott King's brave and inspiring life, as well as her rich legacy of activism.
But none will be so appropriate as those that recall her absolute opposition to this president's illegal and immoral war-making.
© 2006 The Capital Times