US honors Martin Luther King Jr. on inauguration day
By Kate Brumback, APATLANTA -- Commemorative events for civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. slid seamlessly into celebrations of the swearing-in Monday of the first black U.S. president, with many Americans moved by the reminder of how far the country has come since the 1960s.
January 23, 2013, 4:09 pm TWN
“This is the dream that Dr. King talked about in his speech. We see history in the making,” said Joyce Oliver, who observed King Day by visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, built on the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968.
In Atlanta, at the 45th annual service for the slain civil rights icon at the church where he was pastor, those gathered in the sanctuary were invited to stay to watch President Barack Obama's second inauguration on a big-screen TV.
As the nearly three-hour service closed at Ebenezer Baptist Church, organizers suggested forgoing the traditional singing of “We Shall Overcome” because the inauguration would begin. But the crowd shouted protests, so the choir and congregation sang the civil rights anthem before settling in to watch the events in Washington.
In the nation's capital, dozens took pictures of the King statue before walking to the National Mall for the inauguration.
At the ceremonial inauguration, Obama took the oath on a Bible once owned by King. He called it “a great privilege.” The King Bible was one of two used; the other had belonged to Abraham Lincoln.
In Columbia, South Carolina, civil rights leaders paused during their annual King Day rally to watch the inauguration on a big screen. Most of the crowd of several hundred stayed to watch Obama's address.
“You feel like anything is possible,” Jelin Cunningham, a 15-year-old black girl, said of Obama's presidency. “I've learned words alone can't hurt or stop you, because there have been so many hateful things said about him over the past four years.”
The service also kicked off a year of celebrations of the 50th anniversary of King's “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington. Students led by King's great-niece Farris Christine Watkins delivered sections of the speech in turn.
By the end, the crowd was on its feet, shouting, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”