President George Bush led a crowd of 10,000 mourners at yesterday's funeral for Coretta Scott King, one of the icons of the civil rights movement, only to squirm in his seat as one speaker after another invoked Mrs King's spirit to lambast his administration on everything from the Iraq war to the response to last year's Hurricane Katrina.
The lavish occasion, bringing together civil rights veterans, three former presidents, more than a dozen senators, musicians and poets at a megachurch in the suburbs of Atlanta, was both a tribute to the woman who carried on the campaigning legacy of her assassinated husband, Martin Luther King Jr, for almost 40 years and also an opportunity to invoke some of the Kings' passionately outspoken rhetoric.
President Bush called Mrs King, who died 10 days ago at the age of 78, "one of the most admired Americans of our time".
Her nearest and dearest pointedly did not return the compliment. "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," said Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr King more than 40 years ago, "but Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here."
The Rev Lowery issued a searing indictment of the Bush administration's economic priorities. "For war billions more," he said, "but no more for the poor."
Far better received than President Bush was Bill Clinton, who won an enthusiastic ovation as he described how Mrs King might easily have given up the civil rights struggle after her husband's assassination in 1968. Instead, he said, she asked herself "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?"Reuse content