Vice President Pence at Holy City Church of God in Christ
It is now a matter of history that, on Sunday, January 19th, the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday in the election year 2020 of the Trump years, the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, came to Memphis to pay homage.
Pence’s first visit on Sunday morning was to the National Civil Rights Museum, where — as he would recall to his hearers at his next venue, the Holy City Church of God in Christ on James Road — “They pointed out to me that in photographs replicated on the wall, they want to make sure that the American flag was in color to know that this movement was about holding up the ideals and values of every American.”
A Church official, Bishop Vincent Mathews, Jr., introduced Pence as “a brother in Christ,” who, among other things, respected his marriage by refusing to “meet women alone” in public and “didn’t come here to campaign, but to honor his hero and brother, Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Pence began his message by invoking a memory of the King statue on the Mall in Washington, the one that stands impressively across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Park, just across the street from the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. “And rightly so,” said Pence. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. belongs in that Pantheon of American heroes. Dr. King was one of the heroes of my youth, as you already know.”
“I’m here to pay a debt of honor and respect to the man who, walking the dirt roads of the Deep South and speaking to hundreds of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, touched the hearts of the American people, and led the civil rights movement to triumph over Jim Crow. Tomorrow all across America, millions of citizens will celebrate his life and his legacy. And we honor him by remembering his work, his courage, his sacrifice. We honor him by teaching our children and our children's children."
The Vice President recalled the bloody, pivotal March on Selma in 1965 on behalf of voting rights. “10 years ago in Selma, Alabama, I had the great privilege of traveling in a pilgrimage led by Congressman John Lewis. We literally walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the anniversary. It was an extraordinary experience for me and for my wife, for our three children. We honor those who serve and honor Dr. King.
MLK Day, he said, would be “a day on, not a day off by giving back to their communities and coming alongside families in need. And I know full the city will be there every step of the way….
There was , it should be said, a bit of what was arguably politics: “‘We're showing you that under this administration, we've made every effort to open pathways to the American dream for every American, and we have stood strong for the values that we hope there. Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, we have created more than 8,700 opportunity zones, including many here in Tennessee, creating new investment and jobs to underserved communities across the nation. I'm proud to say that today, African-American unemployment is at the lowest level ever recorded. Not long ago, surrounded by university leaders, President Trump made the more than $250 million in annual funding to historically black colleges and universities permanent under federal law.”
The administration, Pence said, had pursued criminal justice reform, and “we have stood without apology for the sanctity of human life.’
“We made great progress as a nation but there's lots of work to be done.
I can promise you this president, this administration will always stand for the values that we share and the right of every American to live in American Dream regardless of race or creed, or color."
Returning to his tribute to King, the vice president said, “I think it's important to remember that Martin Luther King Jr. was also a Christian leader. Throughout my life, what has most inspired me about his example is that he was first and foremost a man of faith — a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a workman approved, rightly able to handle the word of truth.
“He said, ‘I may not be there with you, but I want you to know tonight ways people will get to the promised land.’ And so we did ...
“If we strive to open doors and opportunities for every American and if we more faithfully follow the One that he follows, we will see our way through these divided times.
And We'll do our part in our time to form a more perfect union in this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you very much.”
Before and during Pence’s participation in the ceremonies at Holy City, which included a lengthy testimonial to Bishop Jerry Taylor, the church’s founder, police cordoned off the church and the immediate surrounding area from a group of media and some demonstrators protesting what they regarded as Pence’s hijacking of the MLK remembrance.