MLK expert talks to us about possible advice to Obama

January 18, 2013 9:01:27 PM PST
This year, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is also Inauguration Day. President Barack Obama begins his second term. ABC7 News spoke with the world's foremost authority on King.

Professor Clayborne Carson, Ph.D., is the leading authority on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is the keeper of all of King's papers and is the head of Stanford's MLK Research and Education Institute. What I wanted to ask him was: if they could've met, what would the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, who was murdered in Memphis, have to say to president about guns and violence in our society.

Carson was just 19 years old when he stood on the Washington Mall on a hot August afternoon and listened to King describe his dream for America.

Four years ago, Carson was back on the mall, in the freezing cold, to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office. Like many who were involved in what Carson calls "The Movement," he wondered, "What now?"

"Now that he has the power of the presidency, what is he going to do to bring King's dream into reality," said Carson.

Carson believes that King would urge the president to take on the harder, more complex issues underlying gun violence.

"The problem of violence is not simply a problem of the availability of guns. It's a climate, it's a culture," said Carson.

For King, it was an issue of social justice.

"You know, I think what he would point out is that people don't kill other people when they have hope," said Carson.

King would certainly call for gun control says Carson, but he also called on all Americans to see themselves as part of one community.

"When do white Americans care as much about the death of a black child as a white child? Would the response of the nation be the same, if that had happened at a black school? I could hope so, but as we know, the death of black children on a daily, weekly basis doesn't seem to garner the same attention," said Carson.

Look no further than Oakland says Carson. And he points to King's message that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

"You know, he was saying that 50 years ago, but now we have to believe that because injustice in one place could lead to terrorism in another place," said Carson.

These are the things that have to be concerned about for our own future says Carson. His latest book is Martin's Dream.

The institute held an open house Friday afternoon, but their website says they welcome visitors to see their public exhibit of documents and photographs located in Cypress Hall on the Stanford campus.

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