To Christine King Farris, the distinguished matriarch of the King Family; to the King Family to Bernice to every single member of the King family… as the Mayor of Atlanta I want to tell you how grateful I am for the sacrifices that you have made for all of us.
And you deserve a tremendous round of applause.
To Gov. Deal and our wonderful first lady, Mrs. Deal, to Sen. Isakson, to the distinguished members of Congress, to every elected official and every platform guest and all of you, it is my high honor to welcome you to our city and bring greetings on behalf of the residents of the City of Atlanta.
I think right now is a really special moment, and what I have to share today is really very simple.
And it is … in the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King … we are best when we dream.
Since 2007, I think we have all have been going through tough times. No matter who you are … almost, I say almost all of us have been going through it.
And I think that when you are going through tough times you start to focus on minutiae ... on the small things ... because you have to do what you have to do in order to survive. And in that moment, I believe that we have neglected to look up.
Psalm 61 and 62 says: “From the end of the Earth, will I cry until thee. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Courage is impossible, unless you have hope partnered with it.
So I want to remind us at this moment that we are best when we dream.
And it’s time to dream again because we are coming out of these things.
It is time to look up.
We need to remember right now that through these tough times for the first time in the history of the United States of America the most influential person – man or woman – of color doesn’t throw a ball, pitch a ball catch a ball ... act, sing or dance … They are Michelle and Barack Obama.
We can’t miss these moments because we are best when we dream.
One of the most satisfying moments that I have had in the entire time ... every day that I have been mayor of Atlanta was at Busy Bee restaurant off ML King in downtown Atlanta. I don’t know if you know about the Busy B restaurant, but you need to.
Occasionally my staff orders my Busy Bee, but I like to go get my Busy Bee on my own.
I like to get the menu, and I look over my vegetables and, of course , my fried chicken.
And one day I walked into the Busy Bee, and I was just in line just minding my own business … having a moment of anticipation. People are nice to you in Busy Bee. How you doing Mayor? How you doing? Getting a couple of photos.
And in the line in front of me at that moment was a mother and a father of a little black boy. And the mother and the father were kind of excited when they looked over their shoulder. And they saw me. I saw the dad look, and then I saw the mom look.
I straightened myself, and I was ready to say hello.
And then mom and the dad, they grabbed their little boy, and they turned him around. And they said, “Look. Look up.”
He looked up, and he was not higher than this rostrum.
The little boy looked up ... kind of irritated.
He said: “Hey, Mom. That’s Mayor Reed. It’s not like he’s the president.”
And he went back to ordering his food.
Sounds funny but what that means is when Barack and Michelle Obama made the sacrifice to run for the presidency of the United States of America to transform and re-imagine the minds of children and expand what it means to be successful in the United States of America for all of the people. The sacrifice is worth it.
Because that little boy didn’t think the Mayor of Atlanta was big deal. You needed to be the president of the United States of America to be a big deal to him.
We are at best when we dream. I like that.
When Maynard Jackson used to walk by, my mom would snatch my arm out of the socket trying to get his attention.
What it means is that we’re growing.
We were talking about October when a group of people from Atlanta and all over the United States went to open the King memorial.
It was a great day. It was a great day.
I’m telling you that was as close to the end of Roots as I have seen in my lifetime.
It was a happy day. It was like Roots. We were just up in there.
People were walking around the White House and picking stuff up. It was something.
There was a Delta 757 jet with Dr. Joseph Lowery’s signature on it. And after President and Mrs. Obama and Malia and Sasha looked at it. They came through the light. It was a wonderful day. And after all of that, we went back to the White House.
We cannot miss these moments.
Because after it was all said and done. There were a group of us. And Ambassador Young was there. And he was walking out of the east exit to the White House. The Treasury Building sits right there. It’s kind of funny how that it is.
We were walking out and Ambassador Young was happy. And then he looked at us. There was a group of us. Different generations but all younger than him. And I looked at him, and he smiled with the ease of a child. And he said, “Y’all better get to work.”
I remember something in my chest when he said “Y’all.” That made me nervous. What about we?
He said, “Y’all better get to work.” He said ya’ll
have a lot of planning to do. So we started having this conversation, and I tried to get intellectual and serious on Ambassador Young. And if y’all know him better than that.
He’s seen too much. He’s heard it all. He said let me tell you something, and he’s told me before but he reminded me ...walking out.
Let me tell you something.
He said people think that when we were organizing the movement that we had all these plans, and we were so smart and all of the rest. He said our plans fell apart all of the time. He said many times that we didn’t know where we were going, but we did know that there was wrong that needed to be right. We did have the courage to sacrifice. That we did know that when all was said and done, we were on the right side of history.
He said what you do is you develop your plan, you do your work. You do not stop and along the way you just change the world.
Now … on the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, we celebrated the successful election of a president. That was the 40th anniversary… we stand here today, and it’s the 44th anniversary ... I believe there is God in that.
But I also believe there is an instruction to us. I think that all of the comments about voter ID are absolutely important and all of the rest.
If you don’t have an ID after that speech then you go get one.
I know you do. We got to get everyone to get one.
But to my generation and all of the generations that have enjoyed all these benefits. The people that made it possible have never asked us for anything. Dr. Lowery has never asked me for anything. John Lewis has never asked me for anything. Ambassador Young has never asked me for anything.
All they have asked us to do is to be worthy of their sacrifice and their efforts.
So… y’all know I like to call the role, but the role has been well called as to why this president should be returned in this 44th year. So when we leave here today after the march and all the rest and after a wonderful meal, let’s do our work. Let’s develop a plan. Let’s not get tired, and we will indeed change the world.
God bless you.