Preachers, politicians urge Americans to continue pursuit of Martin Luther King’s dream
ATLANTA – This time, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow watched the ceremonies on television, prevented by her health from attending observances at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church celebrating her slain husband’s birthday.Coretta Scott King, who is recovering from a stroke and heart attack that partially paralyzed her in August, stayed home Monday as preachers and politicians urged people to continue King’s lifelong pursuit of civil rights and nonviolence.It was the first time in 38 years that she had missed the service at the church where her husband preached from 1960 until his death in 1968. She received a standing ovation Saturday night when she appeared on stage with her children at an awards dinner. That was her first public appearance since last year’s King holiday, but she did not speak.As she listened from home, some speakers used the pulpit to criticize the Iraq war, saying money being used by the military overseas could better be spent domestically on projects such as education, especially for blacks.Elsewhere around the nation, President Bush took in a rare public showing of the original Emancipation Proclamation; hundreds of people marched in New Orleans, Little Rock, Ark., and Columbia, S.C., and volunteers worked on projects to help others in Philadelphia.King was “a brother, a friend, a colleague, a prophet, my hero, and just a simple human being filled with love, peace and compassion for all humankind,” Rep. John Lewis said at a holiday breakfast in Minneapolis.This year is the 20th anniversary of the federal holiday, first held on Jan. 20, 1986. Sunday would have been the assassinated civil rights leader’s 77th birthday.Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said the city has a particular obligation to preserve King’s “legacy of fighting for social and economic justice, a legacy of marching with the poor and the neglected, a legacy of demanding peace against senseless war.”In Washington, the president went to see Abraham’s Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which is on display for just four days at the National Archives. The aging document is brought out only occasionally because it is sensitive to light.”It seems fitting on Martin Luther King Day that I come and look at the Emancipation Proclamation in its original form,” Bush said. “Abraham Lincoln recognized that all men are created equal. Martin Luther King lived on that admonition to call our country to a higher calling, and today we celebrate the life of an American who called Americans to account when we didn’t live up to our ideals.”Hurricane Katrina debris along New Orleans’ Martin Luther King Boulevard had been cleaned up in advance of a holiday parade Monday, but many nearby buildings remained abandoned and in ruins.New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called on black people to rebuild the city, which was more than 60 percent black before Katrina displaced about three-quarters of its population.”This city will be a majority African American city,” Nagin told a crowd at City Hall. “It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn’t be New Orleans.”In other states:- Several thousand people attended a rally at Columbia, S.C. Improved funding for schools and removing the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds dominated the speeches. “We’re not going to rest until that rag comes down,” said the Rev. Nelson Rivers III, chief operating officer of the NAACP in Baltimore.- Thousands of volunteers commemorated Martin Luther King Day across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware by taking part in an array of service projects.