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Roberts offers to recite King speech from memory

Published on -9/18/2013, 7:12 AM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas State Board of Education member who was criticized for using a racial slur has offered to recite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at a public discussion.

Steve Roberts, a Republican from Overland Park, said Monday he would recite King's famous speech from memory at the event Friday if he gets the opportunity, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/14eAslN ). The event is being organized by Topeka activist Sonny Scroggins to discuss the "N-word" and free speech.

Roberts drew criticism in May after he said the "N-word" at a state board meeting during a discussion on African-American history. Roberts said during that discussion that it was the 50th anniversary of King's Letter from Birmingham Jail and that King had used the "N-word" in his letter. He also said it was important to push the boundaries of political correctness.

Ben Scott, past president of the Topeka NAACP, said in May he didn't understand the connection between Roberts' comments, King's letter and the study of history.

"It appears to me in those remarks that it is an attempt to denigrate the reputation of our great leader," said Scott, who addressed the board in April, raising concerns about proper treatment of black history in Kansas schools.

Roberts said he didn't know Scroggins but appreciated his invitation to attend the event Friday. He said he would be happy to recite King's speech, which is one of six documents he has memorized and refers to as "Patriotic Recitations." The other five texts are the Declaration of Independence, a 1787 address by Benjamin Franklin to the constitutional convention, the Bill of Rights, an 1802 letter written by Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

"I feel that these are important things that people ought to know," he said.

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