Statement from Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Chief Executive Officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change: Present at White House Ceremony to Welcome Pope Francis to the United States


ATLANTA, September 23, 2015 – Today I was among those who welcomed Pope Francis to The White House for his historic visit. I journeyed to Washington, D.C. in the spirit of my father, who met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1964 and received his promise to make “a personal and public declaration against racial segregation.”  I was deeply moved to hear Pope Francis quote my father’s words and invoke his name. Pope Francis daringly referenced my father’s socially prophetic demand that this nation honor the promissory note contained in the Declaration of Independence that all persons "be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In 2015, the demands of this promissory note are not just national—they are global. As my father declared over 50 years ago in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “…all life is inter-related. All men [and women] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

As the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, as a minister for Christ, and as CEO of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, I have the privilege and responsibility of continuing my parents’ tireless work to secure human dignity for all persons and to promote nonviolence as the most effective strategy for social change.

At The King Center, in our efforts to build what my father called the “Beloved Community,” we launched Nonviolence 365, a global education and training initiative based on my father’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology. Nonviolence 365 aims to develop a new generation of social change agents who will internalize nonviolence, not just as an organizing tactic, but as a way of life 365 days a year. It is my hope that global spiritual leaders and world political leaders, like Pope Francis and President Obama, will join us in our efforts to make my father’s vision of a “Beloved Community” a reality, not in some utopian future, but in our lifetime. We can accomplish this by choosing Nonviolence 365.