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The late Martin Luther King Jr. inspired people in many ways.  One man honors Dr. King’s legacy by writing him an annual letter, assessing race relations in the U.S.  This year, when America elected the first black president, the author says he was overcome with joy. Reed Galin reports.     

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Atlanta, Georgia)

Bishop Woodie W. White (reading letter): “Dear Martin…”

United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White never knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “Martin, it was an unforgettable moment…”

Every year, since 1976, he has taken pen and paper and told Dr. King about the progress America has made.

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “It’s very personal. It’s like writing a letter to someone.”

Video clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I have a dream today…”

Bishop White was there in Washington that day in 1963.

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “I remember the cheers and the tears and a sense that something was going to change. It was a different time, a different era, the tensions were great.”

But what happened just four decades later...not even Bishop White thought possible.

Bishop Woodie W. White (reading letter): “Barack Obama was elected the 44th president; the first black American to be so elected. There was utter joy.”

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “When I was envisioning what America could be, interestingly enough I never envisioned a black person as president.”

Bishop Woodie W. White (reading letter): “If you could see him Martin...”

This year’s letter was the most difficult to write. There was so much to say.

Bishop Woodie W. White (reading letter): “You would recognize that Mr. Obama is a man of unusual gifts.”

Newsfile: Obama acceptance speech: “...a preacher from Atlanta who told the people, we shall overcome. Yes we can.”

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “He would be gratified that the election of Obama was an election that brought people together.”

Newsfile: Obama acceptance speech: “We are and always will be, the United States of America.”

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “Racism will no longer characterize our nation structurally, legally. Our ethos will no longer be racist.”

The night before Dr. King was assassinated, he said in a speech...

Newsfile: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We as a people will get to the promised land.”

On November 4th, 2008, Bishop White says America changed.

Bishop Woodie W. White (reading letter): “In so many ways Martin, we are a better nation.”

Bishop Woodie W. White, Retired United Methodist Bishop: “When I heard the ‘I have a dream’ speech, I saw what America could be at its best…”

(reading letter) “The nation is even moving beyond the dream.”

“…and when I saw Barack Obama, I saw America for what it is, at its best.”

(reading letter) “Happy birthday Martin. We are overcoming.”

TAG:

President Barack Obama has spoken at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Dr. King was baptized and where King was co-pastor with his father from the age of 19 until his death in 1968.

To read more about Bishop Woodie W. White’s letters to King, see: In letter to King, bishop rejoices over election of nation’s first African-American president

Posted: Jan. 14, 2009