It was right that our nation’s first black president was the major speaker at Wednesday’s 50th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
But it was wrong that the U.S. Senate’s only black member — Tim Scott of North Charleston — was not invited to speak.
That snub from the Coalition for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial was sadly predictable.
There’s an awful irony here: If the nation’s only black senator were a Democrat, he would surely have been invited to speak at that tribute to Dr. King’s transforming eloquence, which moved millions of Americans — regardless of political affiliation — to the realization that race-based injustice was an intolerable betrayal of American ideals.
Yes, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Whip Eric Cantor turned down their opportunities to speak at the memorial Wednesday. So did former Republican presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, neither of whom could be there due to their ongoing health problems.
And Sen. Scott was invited, along with every other member of Congress via form letter, to attend. Yet he wasn’t invited to speak at an event that at times sounded like a Democratic pep rally.
For instance, former president Bill Clinton, during his speech, took this cheap shot at Republican support for voter ID laws: “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”
Mr. Clinton didn’t mention that Rhode Island’s overwhelmingly Democratic legislature passed a voter ID law in 2011, that more than 30 other states have done the same, that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law in 2008, or that black voter participation has increased in Georgia since its voter-ID law went into effect in 2007.
But reasonable people can have a reasonable debate on that and other issues.
What’s unreasonable is the notion that the first black senator from the South since the 19th century wasn’t worthy of a speaker’s slot at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Sen. Scott did speak Wednesday night at a celebration of the march — and the dream — at a North Charleston church.
Sen. Scott also marked the occasion with a guest column in The State newspaper. He hailed the “persistence and strength” that “defined a generation of black leaders and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.” He appealed for bipartisan resolve on persisting challenges, writing:
“We don’t need Republican or Democratic solutions. We need American solutions. Using education as an example, whether your answer is school choice or allowing funds to follow individual students or any other number of ideas, let us demand the best from our nation.”
And let us judge others not by their choice of political party but by the content of their character.