Dr. Bernice King: ‘My father would meet with Trump’

As a war of words plays out between President-elect Donald Trump and Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, one is left to wonder what MLK Jr. would have done in the wake of the 2016 election.

Two days before her famous father's birthday, the daughter of the civil rights icon answered that question.

“My dad was one who--he was nonpartisan, first of all," King Center CEO Dr. Bernice King tells WSB of her father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "He learned to work with whatever administration was in office.”

King believes her father would have recognized that there were "two drastically different individuals" currently heading up America's political parties: the current president, whose accomplishments, dignity and grace she says Dr. King would have applauded, and the incoming one.

King says her dad would also have some advice for Trump -- that as a leader, words matter.

“I think he would say that as a leader, semantics are very important to a person such as President-elect Trump. You have to be careful of words because leaders set tone and a tenor, and some of the things that have come out of his mouth are very denigrating and not representative of someone who would be holding an office of such.”

She adds, “Unlike some people, my father would try to meet with President-elect Trump because he recognizes that in order to move the agenda of justice, freedom, and equality forward, you can’t just protest and resist. You also have to negotiate as well.”

She also tells WSB the King Center is hosting what could be a powerful racial forum Monday night at 5 p.m.

Leading up to the inauguration, she finds that many people are filled with trepidation, and others with excitement. This "Beloved Community Talk" is a way King hopes that people can start to talk to and hear each other.

"Every time I go to these racial forums, it is people who are alike, or it is progressives and liberals," she says. "So I said, 'at some point, we've got to bring the progressives and the liberals and the conservatives together.’"

The guest list for the forum, titled “Let’s Bridge the Racial Divide across Urban, Suburban and Rural America”, includes more than a dozen divergent voices, from social justice activists to a neo-Confederate.

Some of those featured are Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former South Carolina State Senator Bakari Sellers, activist Mary Pat Hector, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member, and former Klu Klux Klansman Scott Shephard.

“He’s coming because one of the gentlemen that we invited, a black gentleman, has been meeting with and engaging the Klan,” King explains. “He said, ‘How do you hate me, when you don’t know me as a black man?’

“So he said, 'I want to go and connect with them.' And that's what he's done, and he’s seen about 25 of them leave the Klan and turn their robes over to him.”

King says the interactive forum of vignettes will give people the opportunity to hear and be heard and hopefully foster some understanding.

“You may not agree. Nobody’s expecting us to come away from this in agreement. Nobody’s trying to convert anybody," King says.

“What I’m trying to do is fulfill what my father said, which is, 'We have to find a way to live together as brothers and sisters, or together we’re going to perish as fools.'”

The 5 p.m. King Center event will stream live on Facebook via the King Center's page, and elsewhere.

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