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Speeches, marches honor Martin Luther King Jr.

ATLANTA (AP) — As the nation remembered and reflected Monday on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., leaders and everyday Americans talked about how far the country has come in the last 50 years and how much more is to be done.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church in King’s hometown of Atlanta, civil rights leaders and members of King’s own family spoke about poverty, violence, health care and voting rights, all themes from the civil rights struggle that still resonate to this day.

“There is much work that we must do,” King’s daughter Bernice King said. “Are we afraid, or are we truly committed to the work that must be done?”

The event in Atlanta featured music, songs and choirs and was one of many celebrations, marches, parades and community service projects held Monday across the nation to honor the slain civil rights leader. It was about 50 years ago today that King had just appeared on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year, and the nation was on the cusp of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King would win the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said not many states could boast a native son that merited a national holiday. “But we Georgians can,” he told the audience.

Deal said this year he would work with state legislators to find a way to honor King at the Georgia Capitol, which drew a standing ovation. He did not give any specifics, but civil rights leaders have suggested a statue. The only current tribute to King at the state Capitol is a portrait inside the Statehouse.

Deal also touched on criminal justice reforms his administration has tried to make, including drug and mental health courts, saying too many people are not being rehabilitated in prisons.

“Let’s build a monument, but the monument should inspire us to build a better world,” said the Atlanta event’s keynote speaker, the Rev. Raphael Warnock. He also said the growing disparities in income, opportunity and health care are indications of a continuing struggle for equality decades after King’s death.

The event closed with the choir singing “We Shall Overcome,” with visitors singing verses in Spanish, Hebrew and Italian as audience members joined hands and swayed in unison.

President Barack Obama honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service Monday by helping a soup kitchen prepare its daily meals and a host of administration figures fanned out across the capital to appear at holiday events.

Obama took his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha to DC Central Kitchen, which is a few minutes away from the White House by presidential motorcade. They joined an assembly line that was churning out burritos.

Obama said he came to help the facility mark its 25th anniversary on Monday.

Among those joining him there was senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

DC Central Kitchen prepares thousands of meals every day for distribution to local shelters.

Vice President Joe Biden appeared at the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, and later joined the Catholic Volunteer Network in serving a hot lunch to guests at SOME — So Others Might Eat.

Several of Obama’s Cabinet officers, including Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, as well as White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, also took part in various holiday-related events. Speeches, marches honor Martin Luther King Jr.

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