Identifying with Martin Luther King, Jr., is a touchstone for politicians of every stripe whether or not they in fact adhere to his ideas. The latest example is Donald J. Trump. On Wednesday, May 24, President Trump gave Pope Francis a first edition copy of King’s writings (plus a piece of granite from the King Memorial in Washington).
No word in news reports if Mr. Trump expressed a fondness for King’s ideas during that historic encounter in the Vatican. One wonders if he is familiar with one of King’s speeches entitled, “The Three Evils of Society.” In the speech, which King delivered on August 31, 1967, he warns, “We are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness” that “has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning.” The three sicknesses he enumerates as “racism, excessive materialism and militarism,” saying they constitute the “plaque of western civilization.”
If Pope Francis happens upon that speech, his thoughts might well turn to the person who honored King by presenting him with a first edition of his writings. To see the expression on the Pontiff’s face at that moment could be most intriguing.