The family of Martin Luther King Jr. is connecting with former President Jimmy Carter to do what the family is struggling to do now – resolve a very emotional dispute regarding their father’s symbolic possessions.
The family has agreed to mediation and a judge in Georgia has approved it. Attorneys themselves believe a settlement is close and that a mediator, in this case the 91-year-old Carter, despite his cancer, can help resolve the painful fighting.
On the surface, the conflict is this – MLK Jr.’s sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, want to sell their dad’s Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded in 1964 and the Bible he carried during the civil rights movement.
That has hurt King’s daughter, Bernice, who sees the heirlooms as “sacred.” The brothers might appreciate the medal and Bible yet clearly don’t have the same sentimental attachment to them as does the sister.
Carter, a Nobel Prize winner himself in 2002 and a respected diplomat during his presidency, has not his age nor his failing health lessen his enthusiasm for helping others work through conflict effectively. One of his final acts in this life will be helping people solve a dispute, a grand legacy.
The King children trust him and that faith in the mediator will only help the process and increase the likelihood of creating understanding, respect, empathy and a creative, acceptable agreement designed by the parties.
The children all value their late father’s items, just in different ways. Carter’s experience can help them feel heard, re-frame perceptions, encourage fresh thinking, point out commonalities and help the King’s see how they can get their individual and family interests met, while also respecting their dad’s message of peace in their own behavior.
This will not only honor the family legacy it will put out a fire and preserve the family relationship.
President Carter is remembered for brokering a deal between Egypt and Israel when the two countries were on the verge of a war, during the Arab Peninsula conflict.