U.S. President Barack Obama led Americans on Monday in honoring the legacy of the slain civil rights leader, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. For the president, the King Day holiday has a special meaning.
Mr. Obama has often talked about America's journey from the days of the struggle for racial equality to his election as the nation's first African-American president.
He highlighted that journey at the White House, where he brought together black elders and their grandchildren to talk about the meaning of the civil rights movement across generations.
"I want to wish everybody around the country a day in which they reflect on the extraordinary contributions ordinary citizens can make each and every day to make America the most hopeful country in the world," said President Obama.
Earlier in the day, the president paid tribute to Martin Luther King's legacy of public service.
Mr. Obama took his family to the headquarters of a local charity that helps the homeless and the poor. Donning a green apron and cap, the president joined other volunteers serving lunch to the needy. So did the first lady, her mother and the two Obama daughters.
A homeless man named Demetrius sat with a plate of chicken, potatoes and bread. He said he had no idea the president would be there.
"Still shaking," said Demetrius. "I am very nervous. I still want to shake his hand again. I am proud that he is showing support for the homeless and everything."
Many members of the president's inner circle joined him in marking the King Day holiday through community service. It is all part of an effort in recent years to make sure that the focus of Martin Luther King Day is not simply a day off from work and school, but a day to help others.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is the only black American whose birthday is a national holiday. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his non-violent movement for social change. He was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.