Pelosi Remarks at Interfaith Service on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day

January 20, 2014

San Francisco – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered the following remarks at the Interfaith Service on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day, honoring the life and legacy of the great civil rights leader:

“Good afternoon everyone.  Good afternoon.  Thank you all for coming together.  We will walk together as Noah Griffin has led us in song.  This occasion, today, imagine, the Reverend Martin Luther King has a day that is a National holiday.  Only presidents have days that are national holidays.  He has a monument on the mall in Washington, D.C.  Only presidents have monuments, and it is very much visited.  For us, for our family, the Pelosi’s, this is a family affair.

“I’m happy to be here with my daughter, Christine and my grand-daughter, Bella.  Now, I mention them because on one other gathering when Christine was in law school, she went to such a Martin Luther King Jr event it was more like a demonstration, and her assignment was to make sure people didn’t get arrested.  The next thing you know, I got a call from Christine – in jail.


“They all just – it was too much.  It was too much.  But that’s what this all takes: the commitment that Dr. King followed.  Isn’t it beautiful for us to gather at this incredible site?

“Many people helped make this possible.  The waters of justice, streaming down, like Dr. King spoke about.  This morning, for a couple of hours, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr Foundation and the San Francisco Central Labor Council came together.  And people of faith and people committed to justice spoke about Martin Luther King.  But at the same time, we spoke about Nelson Mandela, whom we lost this year.  And we spoke about Supervisor Willie B. Kennedy, who was very instrumental in getting this Martin Luther King monument here.  She was also instrumental in advocating for women and minorities having more opportunities.

“But still, as we talk about them, we hear Dr. King.  I, 50 years ago as a student, was at the March on Washington.  I’m proud to say.  That was a long time ago.  But every year when we come together it’s not just enough for us to talk about Dr. King and the inspiration that he was.  He had a vision, he had a plan; he was eloquent in attracting people to what it is.  But that must go on, and the legacy that he left us, if we have the courage to fight for what he stood for.  Because what we have achieved from victory, we have to always keep fighting.

“The Supreme Court made a terrible decision on the Voting Rights Act.  We must pass the Voting Rights Act because voting is the most precious, precious thing.


“Dr. King said of all of the injustices the most inhumane to him was health injustice.  We passed a bill that says coverage in this country is a right, not a privilege.  This month, health insurance came to many people in our country.  We must fight to keep it there.  Dr. King talked about this after the Civil Rights Bill was passed, that the most important civil rights bill to pass was to raise the minimum wage.  That fight continues, and we will fight to raise the minimum wage; we will fight for unemployment benefits for our workers who are out of work through no fault of their own.  We will fight for immigration reform to be made so that every person in our country who is eligible can become a citizen of America.  And we will fight for social justice as well as actual criminal justice, where we have unequal representation which is unequal sentencing.  We have kids who are arrested for 70 years for doing something so minor because they were not guided in terms of their legal representation.  So we have a lot of work to do that Reverend Martin Luther King laid out for us.

“And I – bringing up a talk about an additional quote about Nelson Mandela for a moment because when he passed away – sent the Black Caucus as a delegation to the funeral along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee from here.  But the rest of us were gathered in the National Cathedral in Washington.  And at the National Cathedral, we heard that the Ambassador from South Africa to the United States, and I want to quote what he said because he said something very, very – he said: We no longer have to fear the dogs and the fire hoses, the Billy clubs and the rest of that, but what we do have to fear is the disconnectedness, and the insularity; the selfishness that tells us that poverty is because people are lazy; that sickness is because people are immoral; and that violence is because of our greed; and that we are not our brother’s keeper.  That’s what we have to fight against because we are our brother’s keepers.


“And everybody deserves the opportunity that Dr. King spoke of.  When Rita Semel was talking about, at the Vietnam speech, I was remembering the Vietnam speech.  That took a great deal of courage on the part of Dr. King, and many listening were divided – the civil rights community – as to whether he should make that speech.  But he knew it was right, and he had the courage of his convictions.  We have conviction; we have commitment; and we all have the power to make the arc that Dr. Martin Luther King led us on.


“We will walk together, we are community; you have demonstrated that today.  Thank you all for coming out for Dr. King.  Now, let us live up to his legacy.  Thank you all very much.  The time is now.