U.S. President Barack Obama is leading the nation in honoring the life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.
In a church where Martin Luther King preached more than 50 years ago, President Obama talked about the past, the present and the future.
He spoke about the struggles of the civil rights movement, and King’s hard-won victories. “We enjoy the fruits of prejudice and bigotry being lifted – slowly, sometimes, in fits and starts, but irrevocably – from human hearts. It’s that progress that made it possible for me to be here today, for the good people of this country to elect an African-American the 44th President of the United States of America,” he said.
The president used the opportunity to reflect on the challenges that he has faced in his first year in office. He said the troubled economy is testing the nation. “Unemployment is at its highest level in more than a quarter of a century. Nowhere is it higher than in the African-American community,” he said.
He said many people are feeling doubt, even despair, about the future. He urged them to have faith. “Yes, we are passing through a harsh winter. It’s the hardest in some time. But let’s always remember that, as a people, the American people, we’ve weathered some hard winters before,” he said.
President Obama looked out at the congregation at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, founded in 1866 by former slaves, and remarked on the lessons of history. He said Americans now facing grave problems need to work together, tap their inner resolve, and seek progress one step at a time.