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Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King speaks at Jewish center, calls for unity in the Āhuman family'

By KATHY BUSHOUSE Sun-Sentinel      
Web-posted: 11:34 p.m. Jan. 28, 2001

When it comes to the decades-old battle against hatred based on skin color, race, religion or sex, Coretta Scott King believes working toward tolerance is not a lofty enough goal.
   She takes issue with that word, "tolerance."
   "I think it sets the bar too low," said King on Sunday night, as she spoke to a diverse audience of more than 400 at the Kaplan Jewish Community Center in suburban West Palm Beach. "I recognize that tolerance is progress over intolerance, but I believe a great democracy should have higher aspirations.
   "Instead of tolerance, we should be calling boldly for the creation of brotherhood and sisterhood. Let us not merely accept our differences, but celebrate our kinship as sisters and brothers of the human family."
   That celebration -- of not just accepting, but embracing difference -- was the theme of King's talk, the final of the Jewish Community Center's monthlong series, "The Anne Frank Experience."
   The wife of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., King has been recognized as one of the nation's most influential women leaders. The founder of the King Center in Atlanta, she has traveled the globe, speaking on subjects ranging from racial and economic justice and gay and lesbian rights to nuclear disarmament and the environment.
   She lobbied successfully for the creation of a national holiday to commemorate her husband's birthday and wrote a book about her life with her husband and their work in the Civil Rights movement.
   And there is still much left to the struggle, she said.
   King pressed for stricter federal, state and local legislation against hate crimes, as well as increased funding for educational programs that expose children to different cultures and people.
   More teaching about people's differences, King reasoned, could lessen the need that some have to harass and abuse those who are not like them.
   "It is a sickness of spirit that makes a person feel adequate only when they have some group to put down."
   She also rallied the crowd to show "active compassion and willingness to help the disadvantaged," ticking off statistics that 1 in 4 children in the United States lives in poverty, while millions of children attend substandard schools or do not have health insurance.
   "Their families need help, not lectures," she said. "In supporting people to achieve their aspirations, we not only bring hope and opportunity into their lives, but also greater meaning, purpose and nobility to our own."
   King called upon President George W. Bush to make good on his promises of "compassionate conservatism," and said corporations should be challenged to put its resources behind more social change.
   "All of the religious organizations in America put together have a small fraction of the resources available to corporations," King said. "If the president were to ... appeal to corporate America to exercise more responsibility and increase its commitment to community service, it could make a significant different in the lives of billions of Americans who need help."
   In discussing what changes society still must make as its people strive to be more accepting, King stressed that this nation should serve as an example of honoring brotherhood and sisterhood.
   "I believe America has a special mission. Surely God didn't put the full radiant rainbow of humanity in this land by coincidence," she said. "I think we have all been tossed on these shores together to provide an irresistible demonstration of the beloved community for the rest of the world."
   It was a hope that her daughters would be exposed to "different kinds of people" that brought Sandy Sikes of Jupiter to King's speech Sunday night.
   "I thought it was good for them," said Sikes, flanked by her two young daughters.
   And King's message seemed to resonate with Margo Sikes, 9.
   "She made me think about how different the world is," Margo said.
   Kathy Bushouse can be reached at or 561-243-6641.


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