Parker honors Martin Luther King, Jr. in House floor speech

‘Today we honor a man who changed the mind of America by changing the hearts of Americans,’ Parker says

Editor’s Note: The video of Parker’s speech as recorded by TVW is below


Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, today gave a speech in support of House Joint Resolution 4603, remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Below is a transcript of Parker’s speech, which was followed by rare applause on the House floor.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

“It’s an honor that for my first floor speech I get to talk about my personal hero. A man who I hope – a man whose picture hangs on the wall of my office, but more importantly, I hope that his words live in my heart.

“Arguably, no other individual in the last 50 years has brought more positive change to our country than Martin Luther King Jr. He was known for his oratory prowess, nonviolent resistance and his moral obligation and pursuit for the greater good. So today we don’t just honor an American hero, we honor a man who changed the mind of America by changing the hearts of Americans.

“You know, we were hired to do a job, and a job – a temp job at that – where people expect and hope that we will care more about them than we do ourselves. When President Kennedy was assassinated, King spoke with Coretta and he said ‘You know, that very thing could happen to me.’ In its most severe and profound meaning, King knew what it was like, that it’s not about us, but it’s about the people that we serve.

“And I wonder what he would say to us in such a critical chapter in the history of our state and I wonder if he would say, and I wonder if he would tell us and urge us to emphasize the corporate nature of the task ahead. That not only is it not about us, but as he so eloquently said, ‘No matter what ship we came in on, we’re all in the same boat now.’ When he was in jail, in a letter he wrote that ‘I’m cognizant of the fact of the interrelatedness of communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.’ I think it’s the idea that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.

“When King was on a plane en route from Chicago to Los Angeles, the plane became grounded because of a mechanical failure. And as he sat relegated in the plane, gazing out the window, he noticed the mechanics approach the plane. Five men briskly walked up, rehabilitated the plane and got it airborne again before much time had passed. And King, as he watched the mechanics come and do their job, with no fanfare, and seemingly no thanks, he wrote in his journal that night that ‘I dedicate my Nobel Peace Prize to the people behind the scenes.’ And I wonder if that would be his words to us today. I wonder if he would urge us in this critical chapter that we dedicate our work and that we’re mindful and attentive to the people behind the scenes.

“I’ll end with this if I may. On my wall sits that picture when Dr. King is addressing a crowd of 250,000 people on steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And the speech that he gave what history called ‘I Will Have a Dream,’ I wonder if that would be his other words to us. I wonder if he would say ‘In a time that is so critically important in defining to our community and our culture and our country that if we’ve ever needed people to have a dream, it’s now. If we’ve ever needed people who are willing people to risk and reach for the stars, it’s now.’

“And I wonder if his dream would be to be a dream where we don’t, where we’re not caught in the swales of the wind, but as what Martin Luther King did, we change the wind. I wonder if he would tell us to have a dream that’s about the people behind the scenes.

“And I wonder if it would be a dream that as a body we somehow did what he did and we identify and somehow we reach that mysterious common ground. Because I think King would say, ‘If we can reach that common ground, than as a state we will stand on higher ground.’

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”



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Washington State House Republican Communications