July 7, 2003

Carter celebrates walk connecting him to King

By Eric Rangus

An impressive array of dignitaries led by former President Jimmy Carter celebrated the June 27 unveiling of the Carter-King Peace Walk at Freedom Park, a 1.5-mile stretch of the Freedom Park Trail that connects the Carter Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and is illustrated with new exhibits chronicling the lives of its namesake peacemakers.

Joining Carter for the 35-minute ceremony were King’s widow Coretta Scott King, Congressman John Lewis, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, King’s sister Christine King Farris, as well as representatives from the National Park Service and the Freedom Park Conservancy. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter was seated at the front of an audience that numbered more than 200.

“This Peace Walk symbolizes a journey that I and many other Americans have walked—a journey of peace, nonviolence and acceptance,” said Lewis, who delivered the keynote address. The Democratic congressman was perhaps the ideal person to speak at the dedication. He worked side by side with King during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and was director of a federal volunteer organization during the Carter administration from 1977–80.

“A person who reads about these two great leaders cannot help but be inspired, even just a little,” Lewis said.

“I hope this will be a transforming experience for Georgians or anyone else who comes to this place to try and ascertain the relationship between basic human rights on one hand and peace on the other,” Carter said, referencing the path’s physical location and the symbolism of its two endpoints.

An oasis of greenery in the center of a bustling city, Freedom Park already is one of Atlanta’s more pleasant intown escapes, and with the creation of the Peace Walk, it can be an important educational experience as well.

The six exhibits, located adjacent to the park’s bike/walking path, blend photographs of King and Carter ranging from child- to adulthood with descriptions of the two Nobel Peace Prize winners’ lives and accomplishments. Freedom, peace, leadership and justice are some of the sentiments offered by the colorful and easy-to-read displays; reverent themes of remembrance, honor and personal and community growth were touched on by every speaker at the dedication.

Coretta Scott King, in her remarks, said the path represented not only the goal of peace but also symbolized the winding path necessary to achieve it.

“I think my brother would be very happy that we have taken yet another step forward in creating the beloved community,” said Ferris, King’s only living sibling and a professor at Spelman College.

“I know that together we can, by looking at the legacy of President Carter and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continue to grow as a city,” said Franklin.

The Peace Walk was funded through an anonymous donor who wanted to give new meaning to Freedom Park, which winds through the middle of Atlanta from the National Historic Site to the Little Five Points neighborhood.

“This is a special day for Atlanta and for the families and supporters of both the Carter Center and the King Historic Site,” said moderator Kara Lund, president of the Freedom Park Conservancy, the community organization that will help maintain the exhibits along with the Carter and King centers.

“The Conservancy looks forward to inviting people from around the country to Freedom Park to experience the rich history of these instrumental leaders and peacemakers,” Lund said.