Paige, who introduced [George W. Bush], spoke movingly about seeing the 1968 riots while driving through Memphis and Jackson, Miss., on the day King was killed. Paige, who breezed through a confirmation hearing last week, recalled King's hope that children would be judged "by the content of their character, not the color of their skin." Bush, too, spoke of the civil rights struggle, and about how King "inspired others to face police dogs and hoses and violence." Bush added: "Our nation is better for it."
Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said Bush would have attended today's event even if he "had won with 75 percent of the African American vote." Still, today's commemoration was Bush's second effort since his victory to repair relations with African Americans. He invited several black ministers to Austin for a conference on the potential of religious charities. That meeting produced some backlash from civil rights leaders, who thought Bush was circumventing them.
Bush, in his remarks today, continued his tradition of innovative English. Pointing out a state senator in the crowd, Bush noted: "If I always agreed with [him] you might hold me somewhat in suspect." The creative phrase followed his recent interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw, in which Bush referred to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as "Anthony" and "Antonio."
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