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Friday, January 18, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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U.S. Still Far From Living King's Dream, His Daughter Says

EDMONDS - The eldest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned military action in the Persian Gulf and called for a re-evaluation of the way America distributes its economic resources.

Yolanda King told an audience in Edmonds last night that complacency about progress in U.S. race relations is dangerous if her father's dreams are ever to be realized.

For almost an hour, King spoke to a racially mixed audience of about 200 at Edmonds Community College. The 35-year-old actress, producer and director turned answers to even the most simple of questions into impassioned releases of emotion.

Teased as a child because her father was a ``jailbird,'' losing him to an assassin's bullet as she headed into her teen-age years, King has memories that are not commonplace.

At times her gestures were so feverish that it seemed she would topple the microphone in front of her. By the time she had finished and called for questions, the room was momentarily silent until a small boy asked, ``Can I have your autograph?''

King said liberation of Kuwait as a reason for U.S. military

intervention was hard for her to accept. Although she said her heart went out to the Kuwaiti people, ``there are far worse atrocities that have been committed in South Africa.''

But, she said, there is hope.

``Maybe some of this has to happen,'' she said, her voice shaking. ``Every year there is some outrageous act that reminds us

that there is still so much work to be done.''

King said in an interview that her father would have responded to the Gulf crisis the same way he did to the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

``It is not a question of non-violence or violence. It's a question of non-violence or non-existence,'' she said. ``We can't keep toying with the notion of war.''

King invoked her father's name and words often during her talk, and she cautioned against feeling that the fight for civil rights is over. A few days before her father's birthday is celebrated as a national holiday, she said America still awards prosperity to the few.

She called President Reagan's signing of the King holiday bill into law ``perhaps the greatest irony of all'' in a series of events that she feared might lull people into a premature sense of security about progress toward racial equality.

``He didn't want to do it, you know, not even a little bit,'' she said.``It was a modern-day miracle.''

Citing figures that U.S.

spending on defense dwarfs the total allocated for health care, education and housing, she called for a re-evaluation of economic priorities.

``And we wonder why we have problems with homelessness in our country,'' she said. ``We wonder why we're floundering in education. We have got to take a look at reversing the priorities of this country.''

King drew applause for suggesting all college students be required to take at least one course in ethnic diversity. She also lamented what she said was a decline in student activism.

To a question concerning allegations that her father plagiarized portions of his doctoral work, she said, ``While everyone else is worrying about footnotes, my father was putting his footsteps in the sands of time.''

These are ``confused, almost chaotic times,'' she said, and paraphrased her father's words: ``In the madness of war, the reality remains. Though we have learned to fly like the birds and swim like the fish, we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.''

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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