Coretta scott king
In January 31 this year, I watched America mourned the death of Coretta Scott King. She was 78. As the first lady of the human rights movement, she left a legacy of peace, leadership, and courage. During a tribute, US President George Bush said that “King’s lasting contributions to freedom and equality have made America a better and more compassionate nation.” (Suggs, 2006, par. 7). Senator Edward Kennedy, on the other hand, attributed King’s journey toward equality as the reason why the walls of discrimination collapsed. Her passion for social change and vision for a better world made her an icon and a source of inspirations to millions of people. In the darkest moments of America, she provided strength to those who were weak and voice to the oppressed. People ask me how she died, but I will tell you how she lived. She was a woman of serenity, justice, and freedom fighting racism, poverty, and violence. The life of Mrs. King resembles the profile of a transformational leader. That is why I have chosen her because of her beliefs and sacrifices for this nation.
At an early age, she understood the importance of education in achieving a better future. “We had to walk to school while the white children rode in school buses paid for by our parents’ taxes. Such messages, saying we were inferior, were a daily part of our lives.” (Interview, 2004, par. 3). She helped her family during the depression as a cotton picker and a waitress to make way for college. Despite discrimination, she remained focus on her studies where she graduated top of her class in high school and earned a college scholarship where she finished B.A. in music and education in Antioch, Ohio. She later won another scholarship to New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Her marriage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an advocate of nonviolent civil disobedience, resulted in a life devoted to defending human dignity in service to social change. She stood beside her husband all throughout until his assassination in 1968. She continued the cause becoming a leading participant of the American Civil Rights movement.
Richard Deats, biographer of Martin Luther, said “the hallmarks of her leadership were unfailing grace, good humor, and a firm resolve. She never wavered in her nonviolent vision.” (The King Center, 2006, par. 13). She gained commitment of other people to follow her vision. She inspired the world with her courage, dignity, and tireless devotion to preserving her husband’s legacy. Four days after Martin’s death, she led 50,000 people in Memphis and the Poor People’s March in Washington. Using her music education, Mrs. King conceived the Freedom Concert where she combined poetry, narration and music to impart the story of the Civil Rights movement and raised funds for the cause. Her leadership style is empowering people so that they can make a difference. She founded the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in 1969 to teach students, teachers, and community leaders about nonviolence through seminars, workshops, and training programs. In 1974, she formed the Full Employment Action Council, a coalition of more than 100 religious, labor, business, and women’s rights organization for a national policy on equal economic opportunity and full employment. In 1983, she set up the Coalition of Conscience with over 800 human rights groups for the 20th anniversary March on Washington. In 1987, Mrs. King led a national Mobilization against Fear and Intimidation in Georgia and a year after; she served as head of the US delegation of Women for a Meaningful Summit in Greece in preparation for the Reagan-Gorbachev talks. Over 60 colleges and universities recognized her leadership with honorary doctorates. She has written three books and founded dozens of organizations like the Black Leadership Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation and the Black Leadership Roundtable. She traveled the world on goodwill missions to Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia to preach against racial and economic injustice, promote the rights of the powerless and poor, and advocate religious freedom, nuclear disarmament, health care, and AIDS awareness. She successfully campaigned for making her husband’s birthday (January 15) a national holiday. Today the event is celebrated in over 100 countries. Her influence and wisdom were felt and sought all over as she shared limelight with other great leaders like Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, and Bishop Desmund Tutu. She stood beside Nelson Mandela when he became president of South Africa. In 1993, former US President Bill Clinton invited her to witness the historic handshake of Israel’s Prime Minister of Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat for the Middle East Peace Accords. The American Library Association, in her honor, established the Coretta Scott King Award recognizing black authors and illustrators for their outstanding inspirational and educational contributions.
Coretta Scott King is a transformational leader because I find her courage and conviction to change society in a nonviolent way real and worthy of imitation. I am attracted to her vision because her leadership style was charismatic based on humility, yet dignified with grace. She represented my voice in her struggles and lived up her husband’s dream, which in turn she handed down to the people. As one of the most influential African-American leaders, Mrs. King articulated clearly her vision which answers the questions, where am I going? I discovered many good traits about her that would question me, what is my purpose? what do I have to contribute to society? what is my goal in life? Her leadership inspires me to make a difference. Her words like “When you are willing to make a sacrifice for a great cause, you will never be alone” or “We must make our hearts instruments of peace and nonviolence because when the heart is right, the mind and the body will follow” forced me to reflect deeply on my own determination and what is happening to our world. Mrs. King taught me a lot about courage and respect for others. Her life is a lesson to learn, which I find very encouraging and can hold on to in times of crisis.
Interview: Coretta Scott King. (2004). Pioneer of Civil Rights.June 12, 2004. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieve June 29, 2006, from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/printmember/kin1int-1
Suggs. B. (2006). Coretta Scott King: 1927-2006. Published, January 1, 2006. Retrieve June 29,2006, from http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/0131metkingobit.html
The King Center. Biographical Information. (2006). Mrs. Coretta Scott King Human Rights Activist and Leader. January 31st, 2006. Retrieve June 29, 2006, from http://www.peacefultomorrows.org/article.php?id=639
Associated Press. (2006). Quotes Remembering Coretta Scott King. Retrieve June 29, 2006, from http://myhero.com/myhero/hero.asp?hero=Coretta_King_AP
Pioneer of Civil Rights Coretta Scott King. (2006). A Powerpoint Presentation of Her Biography. Retrieve June 29, 2006, from http://www.uis.edu/aeo/dtf/CorettaKing.ppt
Medearis, A. S. (1999). Dare to Dream : Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement (Rainbow Biography). Puffin; Reprint edition (January 1, 1999). ISBN: 014130202X