Clinton Reflects on an Early Meeting of King
By Krissah Williams
MEMPHIS -- Sen. Hillary Clinton recalled being taken to meet the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by a church youth leader in Chicago as a teenager, and choked up today as she spoke of the day she learned of his death. She was here to remember the slain civil rights leader on the 40th anniversary of his death as this city held dozens of events in his honor.
Clinton gave her speech to a group of ministers at the Church of God in Christ's Mason Temple -- the same place that King gave his last speech, "I've Seen the Mountaintop," on April 3, 1968, before retiring to the Lorraine Motel, where he was assassinated.
"I stood in line for a very long time that night to shake his hand," Clinton said, recalling meeting him in 1962. "He was gracious, and he was kind enough to lean over and shake the hand of a 14-year-old girl from the suburbs of Chicago, who went to an all-white church and an all-white school and lived in an all-white suburb. But he didn't ask me as I reached out my hand, 'Where do you live, what's your experience?' He just took it and looked in my face and thanked me for coming. That Dr. King has such a profound impact on a young white girl, he had that kind of impact on millions of people of all colors faiths ages and walks of life tells us something about the reach and power of his vision."
Clinton spoke slowly, and her voice cracked with emotion when she talked about learning of King's death as a junior in college.
"I walked into my dorm room carrying my backpack and hurled it across the room. I felt like everything had been shattered," she said. "I joined a protest in Boston. I wore a black arm band. I worked to try to convince my college to hire more faculty of color, but it felt like it wasn't enough."
She quickly left the emotion of that memory for more familiar ground -- policy proposals, announcing a cabinet level position tasked with ending poverty.
Clinton left the church and stopped for a quick visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, which houses the Lorraine.
She was greeted warmly by the mostly African American crowd, though some shouted Obama '08 as she stood in the lobby.
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