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NBC's Gregory Hopes Obama Uses Anniversary of MLK Speech as 'Leadership Moment' to 'Challenge Republicans'

At the end of Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory excitedly announced to his panel of guests: "We're coming up on an anniversary that is going to give the President an opportunity to highlight some – a presidential leadership moment." [Listen to the audio]

Gregory was referring to the upcoming 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech and teed up Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards: "President Obama going to recreate that moment, in effect, on the – on the Washington Mall. How significant is it?" Edwards replied in part: "I think he's going to speak to economic inequality....give him an opportunity to follow up on the Dr. King dream, saying it's social equality."    

Seizing on that liberal theme, Gregory turned to National Review editor Rich Lowry and wondered: "Rich Lowry, does he use any part of this as a way to challenge Republicans to try to jumpstart something in his second term on inequality, on the economy?"

Lowry promptly shot down Gregory's aspirations: "I doubt it. And it would sort of be an inappropriate forum for that I – I would think."   

Here is a full transcript of the August 18 exchange:

11:23AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: We're coming up on an anniversary that is going to give the President an opportunity to highlight some – a presidential leadership moment. We're talking about the anniversary of the march on Washington coming up on August 28th. That's where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of course, made his, "I Have a Dream" speech. Fifty years ago next Sunday, King appeared on this very program. Here is some of what he had to say.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. [AUGUST 25,1963]: I think that we must face the fact that, in reality, you cannot have economic and political equality without having some form of social equality. I think this is inevitable, and I don't think our society will rise to its full maturity until we come to see that men are made to live together as brothers and that we can have genuine inter-group, inter-personal living and still be in the kind of society which we all long to achieve.

GREGORY: Congresswoman, next Saturday, the 50th anniversary, President Obama going to recreate that moment, in effect, on the – on the Washington Mall. How significant is it?

DONNA EDWARDS [REP. D-MD]: I think it's really significant when you think 50 years ago, and I think that, you know, Dr. King did have some vision that, you know, some day there might be an African American in the White House, living that dream. And I think the President is going to speak to that.

And most importantly, I think he's going to speak to economic inequality. He's done that a number of times over the last several weeks and months. And I think that the speech in – in Washington is actually going to give him an – him an opportunity to follow up on the Dr. King dream, saying it's social equality. We've had, you know, problems around race relations, but it’s about economic inequality.

GREGORY: Rich Lowry, does he use any part of this as a way to challenge Republicans to try to jumpstart something in his second term on inequality, on the economy?

RICH LOWRY [EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW]: I doubt it. And it would sort of be an inappropriate forum for that I – I would think. And what I take away from the march on the Washington, you know, Abraham Lincoln referred to the Declaration of Independence as this electric cord going throughout all American history and you had those marchers grabbing on to that chord and using the truth of the Declaration to change the country and make it a more just place.

GREGORY: Interesting. Robert Gibbs.

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, it will be a special moment, and I think, you know, we look back 50 years and see how much the country has changed, how much it still has to come, but understanding the role that Martin Luther King played, as Time magazine pointed out this week, is probably one of the founding fathers of modern America.

CHUCK TODD: John Lewis – John Lewis' speech, right, the sole living speaker from-

GREGORY: John Lewis is going to be on this program next week, a special program, a special edition of Meet the Press as we mark that 50th anniversary.