As millions of people across the country watched the inaugural ceremony for President Barack Obama, many others celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Ceremonies in the past week to honor the slain civil rights leader included a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Monday at the Midtown Community Center.
It was sponsored by Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, and it included music, a brief presentation on King’s life and work, and remarks by Connie Martin, MMC vice president and chief support officer.
Martin said King was “a man that understood that a true patriot will not sit idly by as his fellow countrymen subscribe to the destructive practices of racism and inequality.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood America more than most,” Martin said. “He understood that our nation is an undertaking that, while forged in nobility, has been, and at times will continue to be, beset with challenges—some of which seem impossible to overcome.”
She said King did more than just point out the nation’s shortcomings.
“He helped us prevail over those shortcomings, and in so doing, gave us the perfect guidebook with which to fight many of the future difficulties that will surely arise,” Martin said.
Monday’s inaugural ceremony for Obama, re-elected to a second term in November, coincided with the federal holiday honoring King. Obama nodded to King during his inauguration speech Monday, and the nation’s first African-American president used one of King’s Bibles during the midday inauguration, according to NBC News.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said during his speech at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga. He was assassinated on a motel room balcony in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
Prior to his death, King led a nonviolent civil rights movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He served as spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955; led a coalition of civil rights groups aimed at segregated Birmingham, Ala., in 1963; and was a leader in the 1963 “March on Washington,” when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35, becoming the youngest person to win it. He attended the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964.
A federal holiday since 1983, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January each year.