Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Newcastle at Centre of King Anniversary

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Newcastle at Centre of King Anniversary

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone Culture Editor

FREEDOM City 2017 was launched in the Speaker's House at the House of Commons yesterday, leaving no-one in doubt that Martin Luther King's receipt of an honorary degree from Newcastle University 50 years ago is not just history but of contemporary relevance.

The programme of commemorative events in Newcastle and Gateshead begins as the political landscape changes.

This was the last official engagement of the US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, as he leaves office with President Obama.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said the Ambassador had been "a true friend of Newcastle - and there are few higher accolades".

Mr Barzun said Martin Luther King had been an inspiration both to himself and President Obama and he hoped that "the generation coming after" would be inspired by Dr King and by Jo Cox, the MP murdered in her constituency in 2016.

Speaker John Bercow said it was timely that we should be celebrating "this great man".

He said: "Never have the values of Martin Luther King - a sense of fairness, a commitment to decency and a steady insistence on equal treatment - be more pertinent and required than in our present circumstances."

In 2016, he said, there had been "an ugly upsurge of a sentiment that I thought we had buried at least two, if not three or four, decades ago.

"I was shocked to the core by the aftermath of the referendum - to see slogans daubed on public buildings: 'Go home Polish scum' and the like, followed up by vicious physical attacks.

"So there's a huge challenge still to overcome prejudice - by leadership and by example, by showing that love and togetherness can trump hate and divisiveness."

He said there were signs of the same divi-siveness across Europe and in the United States.

He said normally we don't think much of people who break their election promises. …

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