- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2011

The nation’s top law enforcement official Sunday described the shooting earlier this month of an Arizona congresswoman as part of a “senseless rampage” that reminds all Americans that “our long struggle to end suffering, to eradicate violence and to promote peace” continues 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Celebrating what would have been King’s 82nd birthday during a speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said as the nation mourns for those who were lost and prays for those now fighting to rebuild their lives, “let us recommit ourselves to carrying on Dr. Kings work and to honoring the values that were at the center of his life: tolerance, nonviolence, compassion, love and, above all, justice.

“Here, in the church that Rev. King called his home, and in houses of worship across America — his spirit lives,” Mr. Holder said. “His memory continues to inspire us. His legacy continues to guide us. And his words still have the power to teach and to comfort us.”

Mr. Holder said that throughout King’s life — even in times of difficulty and despair, and of anger and anguish — he kept faith with these values.

“Now, we must have faith in their power — not only to heal fresh wounds and long-standing divisions, but also to fuel tomorrows progress,” he said.

Mr. Holder, the first black to hold the office of attorney general, was among several high-ranking officials who accompanied President Obama to Arizona last week after the assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, who was shot in the head outside a Tucson supermarket. He also went with the president to the funeral services of Christina Taylor Green, one of the six people killed in the rampage.

Mrs. Giffords, who remains in critical but stable condition, was shot in the head at point-blank range as she met with constituents. She has shown encouraging signs of recovery.

Suspect Jared Loughner, 22, faces five federal charges and a possible death sentence in the fatal shooting of U.S. District Chief Judge John M. Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a 30-year-old aide to Mrs. Giffords, and the attempted murders of Mrs. Giffords and her aides Pamela Simon and Ron Barber.

Federal law does not have jurisdiction over the other killings and shootings, but state authorities have promised to charge Mr. Loughner with those crimes in state court. Those charges would include the killings of Dorothy Morris, 76, Dorwin Stoddard, 76, Phyllis Scheck, 79, and 9-year-old Christina.

During his Sunday speech, Mr. Holder said Americans needed to look on their country much as King did, seeing both its “history of imperfection and its future promise; working on both its weaknesses and its strengths; appreciating both its challenges and its infinite opportunities.

“To be sure, we still have problems to solve. We have obstacles to overcome. We have not reached the end of the road that Dr. King told us we must travel. And we have a dream that — still — has not been fully realized,” he said. “But we also have cause for optimism. We have signs of encouragement all around us.”

Mr. Holder, who previously served as a superior court judge in D.C., a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, said all Americans have the power, the capacity, to improve the world and that each also has the responsibility, the duty, to do so.

“No matter what form our service takes, the work of helping one another and of improving the world that we share always begins the same way: with an act of love; with an act of hope; with an act of faith,” he said.

The attorney general said that 43 years ago — in the final year of his life and the month before his killing — King delivered what would be his last sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. On that day, he said, King told his congregation to have strong faith, strong enough to weather the storms of disappointment that were coming.

“The faith and the storms that Dr. King spoke of decades ago … remain with us today,” Mr. Holder said. “And I believe that our faith — both in the divine and, critically, in each other — will allow us to transcend todays fears, to bridge todays divisions, to overcome todays sorrows, to feel the healing comfort of Gods hand upon us, and to find strength in Dr. Kings enduring assurance that, everywhere and always, ‘God is there.’ God is there.”

“To that, let me say, simply, ‘Amen,’” he said.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. James Earl Ray was convicted in the killing on March 10, 1969, after entering a guilty plea to avoid a jury trial and the death penalty. Sentenced to a 99-year term, he died in prison of hepatitis on March 23, 1998.

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