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President Biden asked Americans to “choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos” as he marked Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Sunday.

Making history as the nation’s first sitting president to deliver a Sunday morning sermon at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Biden said the life and the legacy of the slain civil rights leader can help guide the nation to protect democracy from threats posed by “racism, extremism, insurrection” and more.

“At our best, the American promise wins out. … But I don’t need to tell you that we’re not always at our best. We’re fallible. We fail and fall,” the president said.

“My message to this nation on this day is we go forward, we go together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos, when we choose believers and the dreams, to be doers, to be unafraid, always keeping the faith.”

Biden was introduced to the congregation of dignitaries, worshippers and members of King’s family by Georgia’s Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who serves as the church’s senior pastor.

Warnock, who recently defeated Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election, joked that the president, “a devout Catholic,” might find the Baptist service “a little bit rambunctious and animated.”

“But I saw him over there clapping his hands,” Warnock said.

King was co-pastor at the famed Atlanta church from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.

In this 1960 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Atlanta.

Georgia is likely to play a big role in the next presidential election, when Biden is expected to seek a second term.

In 2020, Biden won Georgia, as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Black votes make up a sizable share of the Democratic electorate, and their support will be key in the 2024 contest.

The administration has sought to highlight Biden’s efforts toward racial justice such as his appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the confirmation of 11 Black women to serve as federal appeals court judges.

From the pulpit, Biden said “the battle for the soul of this nation is perennial. It’s a constant struggle … between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice.

“Progress is never easy, but it’s always possible and things do get better in our march to a more perfect union,” he said. “But at this inflection point, we know a lot of work that has to continue on economic justice, civil rights, voting rights, protecting our democracy. And I’m remembering our job is to redeem the soul of America.”


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