Marking 50 years since 'I Have a Dream'

WASHINGTON - Members of Martin Luther King's family encouraged people amassed on the National Mall to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of King's speech not to stop fighting for his vision of equality and community.

King's youngest daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, his eldest son, Martin Luther King III, and his sister, Christine King Farris, all encouraged a new generation to pursue King's ideals in speeches Wednesday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Bernice King encouraged Americans to "say with a resounding voice no to chaos and yes to community," as King did years ago.

King's sister, Christine King Farris, spoke of "horrific violence" that she said had claimed the lives of young minorities such as slain teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Still, she says, "we are not going to be defeated."  

President Barack Obama is claiming his place in King's 50-year-old dream, holding himself up as a symbol of the change King envisioned. But he also pointed to the nation's lingering economic disparities as evidence that King's hopes remain unfulfilled.

Obama spoke at Lincoln Memorial Wednesday, and with Biblical references and the cadences of a preacher, Obama used the refrain, quote, "because they marched," as he recited the achievements of the civil rights movement.

Laws changed, legislatures changed and even the White House changed, Obama said. But he says income inequality, troubled inner cities and stagnant wages amid growing corporate profits show that challenges remain.

Former President Jimmy Carter also paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., even as he extolled the nation to continue to work for a better America.

Carter railed against a recent Supreme Court decision that effectively erased a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act. He bemoaned a nation awash in guns with too many black Americans in prison.

Carter said he knows how King would have reacted, adding that "there's a tremendous agenda ahead of us."

For President Bill Clinton, this day 50 years ago in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, marks "one of the most important days in American history."

The "march and that speech changed America," said Clinton, and "opened minds and melted hearts ... and moved millions."

Clinton said racial inequalities remain. But he said it's time to stop complaining and instead get to work -- for better education opportunities for all children and implementing health care for all.

He said: "We must push open those stubborn gates" that are holding America back.

Longtime civil rights leader John Lewis said the country has come a great distance since King's "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago "but we still have a great distance to go."

The Georgia congressman was speaking from the same spot where King spoke and Lewis remembered being beaten and arrested during 1960s protests.  

While the country has made progress, Lewis said the "scars and stains of racism still remain deeply embedded in American society." He referred to slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and "immigrants hiding in fear" as examples.

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