On the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Clinton recalls his memories of that day.
Bill Clinton Speaks 25 Years after the Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
FAITH DANIELS, anchor:
It was 25 years ago today that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, on this day back in 1968. Dr. King was in Memphis to help striking sanitation workers, and he spoke to them the night before he died. Jamie Gangel talked with President Clinton about his memories of Martin Luther King.
President BILL CLINTON: You know, the next morning, in my house on Potomac Avenue in Washington, and you know, I was just in shock. I remember then it wasn’t very long before the city burned, and President Johnson had to call out the guard, and a lot of us agreed to do what we could to help. There were a lot of people who were burned out of their homes, and I remember I got a big red cross and put it on my old Buick convertible and drove supplies down into the burned out parts of the city for a couple of days. I was just, like many Americans, I was grief stricken.
Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
President CLINTON: August 28th, that was the day that Martin Luther King spoke, gave his “I Have a Dream” Speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and I remember sitting alone in my living room in Arkansas, and I still remember, I was in a white reclining chair, listening to him and weeping, I just cried all the way through the speech, and I was all by myself. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
Dr. KING: Free at last, free at last thank God almighty we are free at last.
JAMIE GANGEL: It’s 1993, you have to give Dr. King a progress report on what’s happened. What do you say to him?
President CLINTON: I would say, well, there’s some good news, and some not so good news. I would say, you can really be proud of the life you lived and the work you did, because there is a huge black middle class today in America. We’d also have to say that the economic stresses in the urban areas have gotten worse, not better.
Dr. KING: The goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America.
President CLINTON: I think there are still people in this country who are racially prejudiced. No question about it. Some of them are in positions of influence or power, and some of them can cause great harm. But I think there are more people in this country by far who have friends of opposite races today than there were in 1968.
GANGEL: If there was one thing you could ask people to do to commemorate this anniversary, to perhaps take a step forward toward fulfilling Dr. King’s dream, what would that one thing be?
President CLINTON: For white America, it would be to re-dedicate ourselves to Dr. King’s idea that we don’t have a person to waste. For black America, it would be to remember that what Dr. King wanted was a fair chance for people to help themselves.
Editor's Note: This speech is often thought of as one of the greatest in American history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the speech to more than 200,000 civil rights supporters during the March on Washington. It was a march for jobs and freedom. The huge rally was held in support of civil and economic rights for black Americans. The march was an important moment for the civil rights movement and is thought to have helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the speech, King begins by talking of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and continues to describe the rights that black Americans were still not given, even 100 years later.