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Martin Luther King Jr. remembered at UNC

Andrew Young didn’t expect to be part of a movement that would change history.

But while working with his longtime friend, Martin Luther King Jr., Young was thrust into the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.

Young reflected on his relationship with King and the political career he continued after King’s assassination, during the 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture Tuesday night in Memorial Hall.

“Martin said he could have been born in any time, any place, but he was glad he had born in the wonderful 1960s, and he wouldn’t have it any other way,” Young told a crowd of about 500.

Young said King shared his goals with the world, no matter the cost.

“The area that is most difficult is the area for which he gave his life. It wasn’t politically expedient, certainly not popular and it had to do with how he wanted to spend his life,” Young said.

King often spoke about death, Young said.

“He said, ‘You gonna’ die, I’m gonna’ die, you don’t have any say in when or how, only what you die for.’”

Young said pursuing passions might come with a price, but in the end it defines a person.

“I never went looking to change the world,” he said. “Love life, love your enemies, be a free spirit knowing that freedom is going to put you in confrontation.”

After King died, Young helped to establish the Panama Canal while he was ambassador to the United Nations for President Jimmy Carter.

He also served in the U.S. Congress and as mayor of Atlanta.

“My daddy explained white supremacy is a sickness,” he said. “You don’t get mad at people who have a sickness, you get smart.”

A few students who attended the lecture said they were affected by Young’s personal portrayal of King, and the advice he gave.

“I like how he said everyone has a purpose, eventually we’ll come to our purpose,” said freshman Olivia Byrd.

And freshman Sarah Rutherford said she had heard of Young growing up in Georgia and went to the lecture to hear him speak.

“He didn’t just talk about civil rights, he made it come alive,” she said.

What stuck with some of the students was Young’s belief in fate, they said.

“The line to progress is not a straight line. Sometimes you’re up in the peaks and other times you’re in the valleys,” Young said.

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