Video of Biden overseeing the creation of MLK Day in 1983 goes viral

At the end of Mrs King’s speech, Mr Biden can be seen shaking her hand saying: ‘Well done’

Sravasti Dasgupta
Monday 16 January 2023 13:11 GMT
Joe Biden stands behind Coretta Scott King as she speaks at 1983 MLK bill signing

An old video of Joe Biden overseeing the 1983 creation of Martin Luther King Jr Day was widely shared on Sunday ahead of the president’s scheduled sermon at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The video shows Mr Biden, then a senator, standing behind King’s widow Coretta Scott King as she spoke in the White House Rose Garden during the ceremony marking the declaration of the civil rights activist’s birthday as a holiday.

At the end of Ms King’s speech, Mr Biden can be seen shaking her hand saying: “Well done.”

King, who was assassinated in 1968 after he fueled passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, would have celebrated his 94th birthday on Sunday.

On Sunday, Mr Biden became the first sitting president ever to speak at a Sunday service at Ebenezer, the church where King once preached.

His sermon lasted about 25 minutes in which the president spoke about protecting the country’s democracy.

This moment, he said, “is the time of choosing … Are we a people who will choose democracy over autocracy? Couldn’t ask that question 15 years ago because everybody thought democracy was settled ... But it’s not.”

Americans, he said, “have to choose a community over chaos. These are the vital questions of our time and the reason why I’m here as your president. I believe Dr King’s life and legacy show us the way and we should pay attention.”

His visit to Atlanta comes as one of his biggest disappointments remains the failure to win passage of a measure that would have bolstered voting right protections, which was also a central campaign pledge for the president.

Named after John Lewis, the Democrats’ voting rights bill included provisions that would have made Election Day a national holiday, ensured access to early voting and mail-in ballots and enabled the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes.

The bill collapsed last year when two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat then and now an independent, refused to join Democratic colleagues in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster.

(Additional reporting by agencies)

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