Big names honored at Freedom Awards

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Former Vice President Al Gore saluted civil rights pioneer Diane Nash on Tuesday, and likened his current cause of reversing global warming's effects to her efforts to foster nonviolent change during the Civil Rights Movement.

Gore, Nash and blues legend B.B. King were honored by the National Civil Rights Museum with its annual Freedom Award. Gore and Nash appeared at a public forum at a downtown Memphis church, attended mostly by area students.

Gore, who spent his youth between Washington, D.C., and Carthage, Tenn., remembered when Nash and other Fisk University students peacefully protested to desegregate Nashville lunch counters. Nash later organized Freedom Rides throughout the South and helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

During his remarks, Gore said that people can reverse the course of climate change, but that political will is what's lacking. However, he added that "political will is a renewable resource."

Since losing the presidential election to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore has made global warming his primary focus. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for that work, and his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Academy Award.

Nash said she learned during her nonviolence training that unjust political systems and ignorant attitudes are the enemies - but never people.

"If we had harmed some of the people we were trying to educate, they would not have come back and become our allies," she said.

Gore avoided discussing politics. The only mention of the Nov. 4 election came from a fellow speaker, Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. Cash told his students history would soon be made when they see either an African-American president or a female vice president.

Gore said at a press conference later that he is "very excited about the prospect of Senators (Barack) Obama and (Joe) Biden being elected, and will spend the next six days campaigning for him. But I also know how much can happen in the final six days before an election, and I also know this wasn't a day for politics."

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