Al Carlson, the powerful Republican House Majority Leader, delivered a stunningly bad speech about Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. The speech went unnoticed but a reader tipped us off to it.
Prior to Carlson’s speech, Democrats had the opportunity to give their own speech on the House floor. Rep. Mary Schneider fulfilled this task by reading four quotes by King.
By contrast, Carlson devoted his speech to praising the Confederate Army and Ronald Reagan, while mentioning King a few times in the process.
Carlson started out by reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but when he got to the part about “these honored dead” — he stopped to reminisce about a recent trip.
“Last summer, I had the privilege of walking the battlefields of Gettysburg and they talked about the 10,000 Confederate soldiers that were after the capture of the hill that was controlled by the Union Army,” he said.
The Confederate soldiers were decimated as they marched, Carlson explained. “And they did it because they believed in the cause. Now in the end they were on the losing side of that cause, but they did it because of their loyalty to their country and their cause.”
The Confederate Army fought on behalf of Southern slave states that seceded from the nation. This is the opposite of loyalty to their country.
After quoting the Gettysburg Address again — “These dead shall not have died in vain” — Carlson argues that “that’s the purpose of Martin Luther King Day, is they did not die in vain.”
It is generally accepted that the purpose of MLK Jr. Day is to honor the civil rights struggle, not dead Confederate soldiers.
In part 2 of his speech, Carlson praises President Ronald Reagan for signing the bill making MLK Jr. Day a holiday. “That was controversial. It wasn’t everybody that thought that was a great idea.”
Next, instead of quoting King himself, Carlson quotes Reagan talking about King, for example: “He taught us that only peaceful means can bring about peaceful ends.”
Carlson ends his speech with this: “I just wanted to relate back to why it happened and the man who had the courage enough to say we’re going to make it a legal holiday. And I think he did the right thing.”
You can watch the speech here.