|The 2007 observance theme, In the Spirit of Unity and Service — Remember! Celebrate! Act! reiterates the importance of remembering Dr. King’s work and legacy.
[NPS Photo, 1962 March on Washington]
WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today urged students from the District of Columbia to help fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream by embracing his courage in the face of injustice, his hope in the face of despair and his strength in demanding that America live up to its ideals.
“Dr. King believed in the possibility of a better America and that America is at her greatest when we provide opportunities for all people to succeed and to build a better life for themselves and their families,” Kempthorne said during a special observance of King’s 78th birthday at the U.S. Department of the Interior auditorium.
“We can celebrate the progress that has been made toward fulfilling Dr. King’s dream in the four decades since his death, even as we recognize that the journey is not complete,” Kempthorne said. “Martin Luther King set forth his dream of that “more perfect” nation – a nation where children of all backgrounds join hands together as brothers and sisters to work for liberty and justice for all.
“We can, as Dr. King did, encourage people to do what they know in their hearts to be right,” he said. “We can speak the truth when we see other people doing what is wrong, even if it means we will be unpopular.. We can respect and value every person, regardless of the color of their skin or their religious beliefs or what country they came from. Dr. King told us to judge people by the content of their character and not what they looked like. We can do the same thing in our lives and we can encourage others to do the same thing.
“Let us remember Dr. Martin Luther King and celebrate the light that shined through him into the darkness around him. Then let us act to fulfill his vision not only for our country but also for each man and woman and each boy and girl in this room today.”
Joseph M. Lawler, regional director of the NPS National Capital Region, also spoke at the observance, which was sponsored by the National Mall & Memorial Parks Division of the National Park Service. The ceremony featured musical selections by the Dunbar Senior High School Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Michele Fowlin-Parker; recitations by students from Washington, D.C.’s Watkins Elementary School; audiotape excerpts of King’s "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered August 28, 1963; and the laying of wreaths.
Following the observance, the National Park Service placed a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial, on the steps where King gave his 1963 speech. Students from Watkins Elementary School then recited the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Monday, Jan. 15, is the official national holiday for 2007 and King’s actual birthday. The 2007 observance theme,” In the Spirit of Unity and Service - Remember! Celebrate! Act!” reiterates the importance of remembering his work and legacy, celebrating his birthday as a national holiday and acting on his teachings and principles of nonviolence and human rights.