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Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was yesterday honored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
He was awarded with the Presidential Award in recognition of his leadership in advancing human rights, social justice and the fight for universal freedom.
The SCLC, founded by the late American Civil Right leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in January 1957 is currently led by Dr. Charles Steele Jr. The event is part of the activities leading up to the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day on Monday, January 18th, 2016.
Former President Jonathan is the first African leader to be so honored. Jonathan also received Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s sister, Naomi King during the event.
Before his remarks at the event, Jonathan met privately with the president of the SCLC. The president of the SCLC, Dr. Charles Steele Jr proposed to work with the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation to advance the cause of peace around the world and to bridge the gap between people of color in the Diaspora and Africa.
Former President Jonathan responded that his vision is to help stabilize and promote democracy and peace in Africa. He went on to say that without peace you cannot have economic progress.
He revealed that this was the reason he pushed for Nigeria’s intervention to ensure peace in various African nations such as Côte d’Ivoire while he was in office.
Jonathan and President Steele then agreed to collaborate along the lines suggested by the former Nigerian President. At the event, former President Jonathan expressed his gratitude to the SCLC for inviting him and declared that it was “virtually impossible to separate this worthy body from its founder, the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, or from epoch making landmark events of the American Civil Rights movement”.
He also said “My personal takeaway from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, is service to God and the brotherhood and equality of all men before their Creator.
In keeping with that, I have learnt not to look up to any man, except he is taller than I, or to look down on a fellow mortal, except I am admiring his shoes”.
Jonathan is the Chairman of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation and is in Atlanta, Georgia, on the invitation of a number of US institutions.
Below are his full remarks at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Responding after the receiving the award, Jonathan said;” I thank the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, for inviting and honoring me today, and especially so, as this invitation comes right about the period when the world stands still in recognition of the selfless sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“When we think of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), it is virtually impossible to separate this worthy body from its founder, the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, or from epoch making landmark events of the American Civil Rights movement. I am pleased to know that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is not just one of the great American institutions, it is also one of her more potent vehicles for the advancement of liberty and freedom for all God’s people. For that, I also commend Charles Steele for his leadership and commitment to peace and justice nationally and globally.
“The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s principles of non violent protests played a great part in the independence movement in my native country Nigeria and indeed throughout Africa as a whole.
“Dr Martin Luther King Jr witnessed the British Union Jack being lowered in Ghana in 1957 when Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence, an action which set off a positive chain reaction all over the continent. In 1963, Ambassador Leslie O. Harriman, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who prosecuted our anti apartheid strategy at the UN, testified of the support he received from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in kick starting that noble effort.
“Suffice to say that the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in advancing Liberty and equal rights transcended national boundaries. Speaking for my foundation, the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, I must say that I have been inspired by this great man and the worthy institutions and legacies he left behind and I am further inspired to continuing doing good and advancing human freedoms just by being present here today.
He explained that; ”My personal takeaway from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, is service to God and the brotherhood and equality of all men before their Creator. In keeping with that, I have learnt not to look up to any man, except he is taller than I, or to look down on a fellow mortal, except I am admiring his shoes.”
Dr Martin Luther King Jr famously said: “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love”.
“Those words helped me deliver on my stated promise to deepen democracy in Nigeria and in the process demonstrate through action that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. Once again, I thank the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for having me. May God bless you and continue to raise up from among you men and women who will continue in the footsteps of your worthy forebears.”