Inauguration Events Absorb King Holiday

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP

(CBS/AP) With the nation's attention turned to President-elect Barack Obama's anticipated inauguration Tuesday, the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day may have gotten lost in the shuffle in parts of the country.

In Hempstead, NY, the annual parade marking the birthday of the famed civil rights leader was canceled as too many dignitaries were off in Washington, D.C., to take part in another pivotal moment in the history of race relations in America - the swearing in of the first African-American president, just across the National Mall from the spot where King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963.

Mr. Obama has recalled King's legacy frequently during the ramp-up to Tuesday's ceremonies, spending part of Monday challenging Americans to public service as he visited an emergency homeless shelter for teenagers in the nation's capital.

"As we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let's remember King's lesson - that our separate dreams are really one," Mr. Obama said in a written statement. (Read more of Obama's statement commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

A service marking what would have been King's 80th birthday was held at the Atlanta church where he preached from 1960 until his death in 1968.

Isaac Newton Farris, King's nephew and president of The King Center, told the jubilant crowd that the election of Mr. Obama was built on a foundation laid by King and was a "gigantic leap" toward the fulfillment King's dream. The sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church was packed, with dozens of people left outside.

"There is definitely a spiritual connection between these two events," Farris told the mostly black congregation that erupted in applause at any mention of Mr. Obama's name.

But he cautioned the crowd that Mr. Obama's ascent to the nation's highest political office is not the final achievement of King's vision.

The King Day crowd was to hear a keynote address from the Rev. Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist who opposes gay marriage. Warren was then heading to Washington, to give the invocation at Tuesday's inauguration, which is expected to draw more than 3 million people.

Farris said that as long as disparities persist in health care, education and economics, King's work remains undone.

"The dream was not about an individual or any race of people attaining power," Farris said. "It was a human dream."

Only one of King's three living children, Bernice, attended the Monday event. His sister, Christine King Farris, led the ceremony.

King's son Martin Luther King III was in Washington already and his other son Dexter King - who lives in California - did not attend. Their other sister, Yolanda, died in 2007.

King rose to national prominence in 1955 when he led the Montgomery bus boycott, protesting segregation in the Alabama city where he served as a minister. Subsequent protest movements throughout the South highlighted King's belief in change through non-violence. His 1963 "Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is widely regarded as the most famous moment in his storied career. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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