ATLANTA (AP) -- Across the nation, thousands remembered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with parades, speeches, rallies and memorial services that invoked the slain civil right leader's message of unity and equality, especially after the events of Sept. 11.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin was among those gathered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the place where King once co-pastored with his father. The younger King, assassinated in 1968 at age 39, would have turned 73 last Tuesday.
"If you have been touched as I have been by Dr. King's ministries, he has succeeded," Franklin said Monday. "If we do not apply his principles to our daily lives, it will be our failure."
The standing-room-only crowd of about 2,000 also heard first lady Laura Bush praise King as "a man committed to peace and a man committed to change."
King "shaped our laws, our conscious and our history," said Bush. "American history is unimaginable without him."
Lester Koonce, a facilities maintenance worker in Atlanta, listened as speakers memorialized the civil rights leader at Ebenezer but said the holiday was nothing more than a pep rally.
"I think we need to go back and rediscover the purpose of what King actually stood for," he said. "We need to unite."
As she did last year, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, asked people to use the holiday as a day of service.
Her son Martin Luther King III brought a similar message in Detroit at a prayer breakfast.
"We don't see it as a day off," he said. "We see it as a day on which people can be involved in community service."
Organizers of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service said the 500 service projects and estimated 30,000 volunteers in the city was one of the largest events in the country.
"Dr. King preached the importance not only of civil rights but of civic responsibilities," said Todd Bernstein, founder of the day of service. "He understood how important it was for a democracy to have diverse groups join hands to take action against suffering and injustice."
In Boston, King's eldest daughter, Yolanda, addressed 1,500 people at the city's largest annual MLK Memorial Breakfast. She said Sept. 11 erased racial differences -- for now.
"Skin color was covered by the ash of burning towers," King said. "Perhaps the best response to this tragedy is to not go back to normal."
In the spirit of King's compassion, students at Watson Elementary School in Hastings, Neb., presented a $145 check to the city's homeless shelter from selling a specially designed T-shirt.
"Civil rights are still being threatened," marcher Stephanie Distefano said from under her umbrella.
New York democratic senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said it's important to recall King's teachings, especially as the city works to rebuild its hope and landscape since Sept. 11.
"In the face of despair, he preached hope," she said.
At Michigan State University, economist and syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux encouraged several hundred students and community members to keep King's dream alive, especially when it comes to the economy.
She said America has a long way to go before everyone is able to get a good meal and earn an adequate income.
Malveaux challenged the students to take action to continue King's efforts.
"There are hundreds and thousands of leaders in the audience," she said. "Who's doing the work? It's not just the leader."
In Nashville, Tenn., the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church said blacks must stop living in King's shadow and participate in the battle against racism and hatred.
"Dr. King left the comfort of his easy chair and got personally involved," the Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie told hundreds gathered at Tennessee State University.
McKenzie said the events of Sept. 11 create a greater urgency for all Americans to work together more harmoniously. She said what happened that day was a result of hatred.
"This is not new hatred," she said. "It's the same kind that hung strange fruit from trees and burned crosses in front yards. It's just a new age of hatred."
Georgia Sen. Max Cleland said King would have been heartened to see America united in its resolve to battle terrorism.
"I can't help but think how Dr. King would be pleased at how we've come together since Sept. 11," Cleland said during the Ebenezer service.
On the Net:
The King Center: http://www.thekingcenter.org/
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