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(1993) William J. Clinton, “The Freedom to Die"

On November 13, 1993, President Bill Clinton traveled to Memphis to address 5,000 African American ministers at the national headquarters of the Church of God in Christ.  Speaking from the pulpit where in 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his last sermon, Clinton used the occasion to urge the ministers to celebrate the King legacy and to continue to fight for the goals Dr. King had pursued until his untimely death.  The Clinton speech, which specifically addressed the problem of crime and violence in black America, appears below.  

By THE GRACE OF GOD and your help, last year, I was elected President of this great country. I never dreamed that I would ever have a chance to come to this hallowed place where Martin Luther King gave his last sermon. I ask you to think today about the purpose for which I ran and the purpose for which so many of you worked to put me in this great office. I have worked hard to keep faith with our common efforts-to restore the economy, to reverse the politics of helping only those at the top of our totem pole and not the hard-working middle class or the poor, to bring our people together across racial and regional and political lines, to make a strength out of our diversity instead of letting it tear us apart, to reward work and family and community, and try to move us forward into the 21st Century.

I have tried to keep faith. Thirteen percent of all my presidential appointments are African Americans and there are five African Americans in the Cabinet of the United States-two-and-a-half times as many as have ever served in the history of this great land.

I have sought to advance the right to vote with the Motor-Voter Bill supported so strongly by all the churches in our country. And next week, it will be my great honor to sign the Restoration of Religious Freedoms Act-a bill supported widely by people across all religions and political philosophies, to put back the real meaning of the Constitution, to give you and every other American the freedom to do what is most important in

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