ATLANTA (AP) — Civil rights leader Andrew Young drew hundreds of people to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park Thursday for a walk organized for his 90th birthday.
The former congressman, United Nations ambassador and Atlanta mayor told the crowd he wanted a “quiet, prayerful march for peace.” Young was instrumental in bringing the Summer Olympics to Atlanta in 1996, and Centennial park is a legacy of those games.
“Peace is more powerful the more it is silent,” he said. “That does not mean you do nothing, but it means that we communicate with a universal spirit of peace that is the creator of heaven and Earth when we speak from within, not from our lips, but from our hearts, from our minds.”
He said Atlanta has become one of the world’s greatest cities because of leaders such as his late friend and colleague the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former Mayor Ivan Allen Jr.
“Many of these leaders decided quietly that the way to peace would be called the Atlanta Way,” he said. “We don’t fuss, we don’t fight, we don’t argue. We sit together, we reason together, we pray together to find a common solution which is for the benefit of all humankind.”
Young is among the last surviving members of King’s inner circle. He turns 90 on Saturday and is hosting multiple birthday events that showcase his accomplishments and continue his long fight for equity and inclusion.
“Andrew Young is one of those legends,” said Kurt Schmitz, a Georgia State University instructor who came to the walk. “You try to find those opportunities to appreciate folks that have made a big difference over a long period of time, and Andrew Young is one of those guys.”
Phillip Finley, 57, said Young’s example was important to young people today as they grapple with voter suppression and other issues Young faced.
“The next generation has to understand what this man did for civil rights — not just for African Americans — for Asian Americans, for Hispanics, for all people of color,” he said.
The walk went up a boulevard named for Young and wrapped around Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Falcons play. It ended in a nearby park, where King’s daughter, Bernice King, delivered a prayer before organizers unveiled a statue of Young.
The walk was the second of multiple events planned this week for Young’s 90th birthday, which has been organized around the theme, “peace and reconciliation.” On Wednesday, Young delivered a sermon at his church in Atlanta in which he lamented the war in Ukraine and “rancor” in the world but also expressed hope for peace.
On Friday, an exhibit about Young’s life will open at Millennium Gate Museum, also in Atlanta. A gala is scheduled the next day to raise money for his foundation, which works on economic development and food security projects.