Al Gore accepts Freedom Award
Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 8:34 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — Former Vice President Al Gore saluted civil rights pioneer Diane Nash, and said his current cause of reversing the effects of global warming have many parallels with the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement she helped foster in the 1950s and ’60s.
Gore, Nash and blues legend B.B. King were honored by the National Civil Rights Museum with its annual Freedom Award. Gore and Nash appeared at a public forum at a downtown Memphis church, attended mostly by area students.
Gore, who split his youth between Washington, D.C., and Carthage, Tenn., remembers watching on television as Nash and other Fisk University students peacefully protested to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville. She would later go on to organize Freedom Rides through the South, and was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
“It is an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with Diane Nash,” Gore said.
Since losing the presidential election to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore has made combating global warming his primary public focus. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for that work, and his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award.
Nash said one of the biggest things she learned in nonviolence training was “that people are never your enemies.” The enemies instead are unjust political or economic systems, attitudes or ignorance.
“If we had harmed some of the people we were trying to educate, they would not have come back and become our allies,” she said.
A week before the presidential election, and in a place where he had often made campaign appearances, Gore took pains not to be political.
The closest he came was when another speaker, Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash, told his students that they are in an historic moment where “in a week, there will be an African-American president.”
Gore, whose 2000 bid for the White House ended with a Supreme Court decision over disputed Florida ballots, quickly knocked on wood. Then he had to smile as Cash, after getting big ovation added, “… or a female vice president.”
Later at a press conference, Gore said “I am very excited about the prospect of Senators (Barack) Obama and (Joe) Biden being elected, and will spend the next six days campaigning for him. But I also know how much can happen in the final six days before an election, and I also know this wasn’t a day for politics.”
Nash said she admires Obama, but added that she fears many in the black community “are looking for a savior” instead of trying to change things themselves.
During the forum, Gore finished his remarks by saying “that we have everything need” to reverse the course of climate change “with the exception of political will.”
But he added that “political will is a renewable resource.”