COLUMBIA, SC — Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday (click here for video) that she has admired the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. since she was a 5-year-old growing up in Bamberg, saying the civil rights leader said things that she could relate to because her Indian-American family faced discrimination.
Haley added that her election in 2010 as the states first female and first minority governor would have made King proud of South Carolina.
He would be so proud of what we have become that he would tell us, Dont stop, the Lexington Republican told about 200 government, business and civic leaders at the Columbia Urban Leagues breakfast on Kings birthday Tuesday. He would say, See, this is just the beginning.
Haley said she won the governors race because she earned the win, not because of her race. The same, she said, was true of Tim Scott, the Republican congressman from North Charleston whom Haley appointed last month as the states first African-American U.S. senator.
We got it because Dr. King fought for that to happen, for people to look beyond the color of skin, for people to understand what it means to communicate with each other through love and not hate, she said. That is what I took away from him: No matter how bad people are to you, always respect and love them back because thats what he wanted.
In addition to his beliefs, Haley said she liked King as a child because they both were Capricorns their birthdays are five days apart.
I just tried to find any way to connect with someone that I would never be blessed to know, Haley said. But I will tell you that I have been changed. All of us have been changed.
The governor asked South Carolinians to perform community service on Mondays King holiday. She said after her speech that she will talk to her two children about their project plans.
The Columbia Urban League is promoting an initiative about civility, which was a theme of the King breakfast. Haley said the civil rights leader would be disappointed with the current divisiveness of politics.
He would want to see more graciousness by people, that you can agree to disagree without being hateful about it, she said after the speech.
Urban League President J.T. McLawhorn Jr. declined to comment on any political divisiveness on Haleys part. Instead, he said he appreciated Haley sharing personal stories in her speech about overcoming discrimination, some of which are detailed in her 2012 memoir Cant Is Not an Option.
The governor come here today and spoke about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., McLawhorn said. Her success was based on Dr. Kings thoughts, Dr. Kings teachings. So I think that whats I would like to reflect on.
State of the State on Wednesday night
Gov. Nikki Haley will deliver her annual State of the State address tonight at 7 at the State House. Return to thestate.com during the day Wednesday for a preview of what Haley will say. Also, Wednesday night youll find reaction here to Haleys speech.
Haley incorrectly attributes King quote
A quote that Gov. Nikki Haley attributed to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech Tuesday on the civil rights leaders birthday belongs instead to an SC native who founded the Childrens Defense Fund.
What I loved was one quote that stuck with me and Martin Luther King Jr. said, No one person has the right to rain on your dreams, Haley said at a Columbia Urban League breakfast Tuesday.
The quote actually came from Bennettsville native Marian Wright Edelmans 1992 book, Measure of Our Success: Letter to My Children and Yours, a spokeswoman for the Childrens Defense Fund said. Edelman worked with King before starting a law firm monitoring federal programs that became the Defense Fund.
The governors office did not respond for comment.