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America Pauses to Remember Martin Luther King, Jr. - 2002-01-22


President Bush says America will never forget the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Bush led the nation Monday in honoring the life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader on the national King Day holiday.

Four decades ago, Reverend King led a movement that transformed America.

The president says his life was brief, but his impact was enormous. He said, "Some figures in history, renowned in their day, grow smaller with the passing of time. The man from Atlanta, Georgia, only grows larger with the years. America is a better place because he was here, and we will honor his name forever."

President Bush spoke in the East Room of the White House - the same spot where the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law, which banned discrimination in jobs, voting and public accommodations. Former President Lyndon Johnson put his pen to the bill on that day almost forty years ago, with Reverend King watching nearby.

Pesident Bush said, "There is no doubting that the law came as it did, when it did, because of him. Yet, he was not one to claim credit for himself. The civil rights law, was first written in the streets by many thousands of black citizens and others who shared their goals."

Martin Luther King, Jr. went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent campaign for social change. He held many titles. But President Bush said Americans should see him foremost as a man of faith. "That faith," he said, "gave Dr. King the grace to forgive and the strength to love. He refused to answer hatred with hatred, or meet violence with violence."

Members of the King family took part in the White House ceremony. They gave Mr. Bush a portrait of Reverend King. When the speeches and presentations were over, the president signed a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr. as a modern American hero, who rallied people of all races to rise up against injustice.

The proclamation also touches on the events of September 11. It says the terrorist attacks drew the nation closer together, and reaffirmed America's commitment to Reverend King's dream of a country where people are judged, not by their race, religion or national origin, but by "the content of their character."

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