Democratic Candidates Honor Martin Luther King Jr. At The Debate With Touching Opening Statements

As the fourth Democratic debate kicked off Sunday night, all three Democratic candidates paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. during their opening statements. The day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the civil rights activist was on everyone's mind, especially since the debate was hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley all spoke about how the legendary leader impacted their personal and professional paths.

Starting things off, Clinton remembered the first time she saw King speak, and how his work encouraged her to devote her life to public service. "His moral clarity, the message that he conveyed that evening really stayed with me and helped to set me on a path to service," she said on the debate stage. "I also remember that he spent the last day of his life in Memphis, fighting for dignity and higher pay for working people. And that is our fight still." The former secretary of state used King's work to segue into how American wages needs to rise, leaving no one behind.

In a similar vein, Sanders said in his opening statement:

As we honor the extraordinary life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it's important not only that we remember what he stood for, but that we pledge to continue his vision to transform our country.

In true Sanders fashion, he then talked about how the economy is keeping hardworking Americans in poverty, as new wealth only goes to the top one percent.

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Last but not least, O'Malley noted that he was born the year King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech — 1963. It seemed that the former Maryland governor wanted to emphasis his youth compared to Clinton and Sanders, who are both more than a decade older than him. O'Malley compared King's mission to how the state of South Carolina responded to the Charleston massacre in June, saying:

You taught us, in fact, in keeping with Dr. King's teaching, that love would have the final word when you took down the Confederate flag from your state house; let go of the past and move forward.

On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, all three Democrats evoked the historic leader's values and goals in explaining why they're the politician Americans should choose to represent the party in the 2016 election.

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