CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY)- With the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday just days away, United States Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and high school students from Hampton Roads discussed his legacy and how it still continues to impact the world today.
Students from Gloucester High School and Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake joined Kaine for a virtual roundtable, where Kaine spoke about King’s work within the civil rights movement, as well Kaine’s own life in public service.
“Dr. King’s life and mission is worthy of analysis every year because we’ll understand new facets of it,” Kaine said. “One of the things I’m thinking about this year is how much activism last year was led by young people.”
Kaine, who worked as a civil rights attorney, says he grew up hearing about King in the 1960s in his Kansas community. He told students that some in his all-white community were against King and some, like his parents, admired him.
Kaine, who was 10 at the time of King’s assassination, says he remembers watching television with his two other brothers and an older caretaker when news came down that King was killed. The senator says he was horrified to hear the caretaker say it served King right to be murdered.
Kaine spoke about the history of our country and why it’s important for young voices, like King’s at the time and abolitionists before the Civil War, to speak up and make sure their voices are heard in a country founded on the principle that “All men are created equal.”
“It’s sort of the obligation of the next generation to wake up and challenge the senior generation and say ‘Hey, you say you’re about equality, how can this happen?'” Kaine said.
Students asked the senator questions ranging from how to get involved with international rights issues, to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, to last week’s insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
Kaine, who was inside the building at the time, says he was worried how the events would impact younger people who were there who wanted to get into public service.
“Even though there are hassles to it and you expose yourself to risk, I’ve been exposed to death threats in the Senate and have had to have, for at least brief periods of time, extra security, the upside of being able to help people is so satisfying. It doesn’t compare to anything else,” he said.
Kaine told the students he believes the single biggest issue we’re facing globally is climate change. Within the United States, it’s the march toward equality.
“Equality is like the North Star. When we guide by it, we get better. When we drift away from it, we get worse,” he said.
He encouraged them to use their voices because it’s needed to help shape our country for the better.
“The innovative spirit, creativity of young people always helps society become better in my view,” Kaine said. “I like voices of the experienced too but the voices of the experienced aren’t as good without the new perspectives of the young so, we can blend them together.”