ATLANTA (AP) — The youngest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hailed the inauguration of the nation’s first black president to a new term as one of the achievements made possible by the civil rights struggle her father helped lead decades ago.
Bernice King spoke at an Atlanta service Monday on the federal King holiday, urging Americans to draw inspiration from her slain father’s nonviolent campaign after a difficult year of military conflicts abroad and natural disasters at home.
“We pray that this day will be the beginning of a new day in America,” she said. “It will be a day when people draw inspiration from the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. It will be a day when people realize and recognize that if it were not for Dr. King and those who fought the fight fought in that movement, we would not be celebrating this presidency.”
Monday’s King holiday — marked by parades, rallies and service projects around the nation — coincided with celebrations of President Barack Obama’s inauguration to a second term in Washington. Many paused to take stock of the progress made by the country since the 1960s fight to end racial segregation — and of challenges ahead as Obama assumed a second term.
In Washington, Obama spoke proudly of having taken the oath of office using a Bible that had been owned by King. It was one of two he used for the ceremonial inauguration Monday, watched by hundreds of thousands.
“I had the great privilege that the Bible we used was his Bible and they asked for it to be inscribed,” Obama said after the ceremony. The other Bible belonged to President Abraham Lincoln.
Dozens in the crowd thronging outside the U.S. Capitol to see Obama sworn in stopped first outside the King Memorial for photographs.
Across the nation, many Americans paused to reflect on King and the changes wrought in the nation since the civil rights era.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley called the King celebration in that state “a great day for America.”
Hundreds of people rallied in Montgomery, Ala., not far from where King spoke at the end of a march in 1965 between the Alabama cities of Selma and Montgomery against the racial segregation once prevalent across the South.
An Alabama state representative, Thad McClammy, said King’s speech there in 1965 was one of the first steps in a nonviolent campaign that opened the way for new opportunities for minorities.
“It paved the way all the way from Selma to Montgomery to Washington, D.C.,” said McClammy, referring to Obama’s inauguration.