United States President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. kept his eyes on the singers seated behind him. The look on his face was one of both amazement and enjoyment as the choir inside historic Ebenezer Baptist Church sang, “Let everything, let everything, let everything that hath breath praise ye the Lord.”
The 46th President of the United States made his first visit to Ebenezer, the faith home of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and sitting United States Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Biden was in town to celebrate what would have been Dr. King’s 94th birthday.
A devout Catholic and regular churchgoer, Biden looked to be really enjoying the baptist church music, but there was work to be done. He would become the first sitting United States President to deliver a sermon at Ebenezer. In the church’s 130-plus year history there have been very few guest preachers, and no presidents. Warnock joked that he always has pressure preaching in front of Dr. King’s sister Dr. Christine King Farris, a regular at Ebenezer since her father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. was head pastor. Biden made a gesture with his hands that said ‘you think you have pressure what about me.’ When it was his turn to speak he jokingly called the opportunity, “intimidating.”
“Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a non-violent warrior for justice who followed the word and the way of his Lord and his Savior,” Biden said during his sermon. “On this day of remembrance we gather at Dr. King’s cherished Ebenezer, I say that to emphasize the words cherished Ebenezer,” he said. Biden added that all in attendance that they were there to “contemplate his moral vision and to commit ourselves to his path. A path that leads to the beloved community.”
Biden was a sympathetic figure of sorts, having also lost family members way too soon. He channeled his experience in loss while thanking the King family, many of whom were in attendance, during his sermon. “To the King family, I know no matter how many years past, it doesn’t matter how many years past, those days of remembrance are difficult. I want to thank the King family for doing this year in and year out and you give so much to the rest of us. We love you all.”
The president also took time to honor the late Coretta Scott King saying, “In my view this is her day as well.”
“There’s hope, there’s always hope, we have to believe”
Biden’s sermon included trying to follow in King’s footsteps, continuing to acknowledge his legacy and choosing to work together. “We have to choose community over chaos,” he said. “Are we the people that are going to choose love or hate? I believe Dr. King’s life and legacy showed us the way to pay attention.”
Biden closed by describing a few busts that are in the Oval Office. Both Dr. King and Rosa Parks, two civil rights icons, remain inspirations to him and are the subjects of those busts, he said. “As I sit at my desk, looking at the fireplace just to the left is a bust of Dr. King,” Biden said. He’s there in that spot for a reason because he was an inspiration to me.”
He closed by saying, “There’s hope, there’s always hope, we have to believe. Folks, for God sake, this is the United States of America, there’s nothing beyond our capacity if we set our minds to it.”
Air Force One arrived in Atlanta around 10 a.m. with Biden being greeted by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA.) upon exiting the plane. Both Dickens and Ossoff were among many elected officials and retired elected officials in attendance Sunday morning. Ambassador Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, DeKalb County CEO Michael L. Thurmond and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA. 4th District) were among the crowd at Ebenezer Sunday morning for 11 a.m. service.