Nation Honors MLK Jr. on Day of Obama Inauguration
The nation was honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday - the same day it celebrated the inauguration of the first black president to his second term.
A quirk in the calendar pushed President Barack Obama's public swearing-in in Washington onto the national holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.
In Atlanta, an annual commemorative service was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was the keynote speaker, marking the first time a Latino leader served in the role.
Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the slain civil rights leader, also addressed the crowd. She stressed her father's legacy of peace and nonviolence, describing how he calmed an armed, angry crowd when their home in Montgomery, Ala., was bombed. Her father stood on the porch and urged the crowd to fight not with guns but with Christian love, an act his daughter called "one of the bravest experiences of gun control that we've ever heard of in the history of our nation."
In Washington, several dozen people took turns Monday morning taking pictures with the statue of King before heading to the National Mall, about a 15-minute walk away.
Nicole Hailey, 34, had driven with her family from Monroe, N.C., a six-hour trip that they started at midnight. Hailey attended Obama's first inauguration four years ago and was carrying her Metro ticket from that day, a commemorative one with the president's face printed on it. She said her family made a point of coming to the memorial before staking out a spot for the ceremony.
"It's Martin Luther King's special day," she said. "We're just celebrating freedom."
Jon Barton, 61, and his wife Brooke Stephens, 59, of Roanoke, Va., had knocked on doors to get out the vote for Obama. On Monday they, too, were at the memorial before heading to the mall.
"When you grew up in the '60s, this means a lot," Stephens said.
In Memphis, Tenn., some marked the day with a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, built on the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968.
Wilbur Cole, a 52-year-old postman from Germantown, said the inauguration adds to the recognition of the King holiday, especially in Memphis. King and Obama, he said, "are the great men of this era."
Joyce Oliver said she came to the museum Monday to enjoy a slice of history and that the inauguration sheds more light on the King holiday and his legacy.
"This is the dream that Dr. King talked about in his speech," Oliver said. "We see history in the making. This is the second term for a black president. This is something he spoke about, that all races come together as one." (AP)
Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement on Martin Luther King Day:
"In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King led his historic march on Washington, D.C. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial- our nation's tribute to the Great Emancipator- he spoke of his dream for equality, justice, and fairness for all Americans. At that time, long before I represented Nevada in Congress, I worked as a Capitol police officer to pay for my law school education at George Washington University. Along with hundreds of thousands of individuals in attendance that day, I was there. It is a memory that I will forever cherish.
"Dr. King's actions galvanized our nation. He taught us that we can achieve great things through perseverance, peace, and love. Now, so many years later, we celebrate his dream of equality and we commemorate his legacy of pursuing justice, no matter the cost. Our nation learned an important lesson from Dr. King's example. As Americans, it is incumbent upon us to speak out for those that cannot always speak out for themselves. We must lend a voice to the voiceless and we must always work to ensure that everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to succeed.
"Dr. King's words ring true today. ‘As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back,' he said that day on the Mall. In that spirit, as a nation, we must strive to be better. We must seek justice and truth, no matter how hard the journey. As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, I hope all Nevadans and Americans reflect on his legacy and come together, as one nation, to march ahead towards a brighter future that we can all share together."