Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. and former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke to thousands at the South Carolina Statehouse Monday.
Their speeches were part of King Day at the Dome, a march and rally organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The theme for the day was "Power Beyond Measure" and focused on commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
The day's events started at Zion Baptist Church with a prayer service, then continued with a march to the Statehouse and concluded with a rally. Obama was the only candidate to face the bitter cold and march, but the other candidates arrived in time to speak at the rally.
The three-hour rally began with a prayer and hymns sung by the Steadfast Singers of Antioch Baptist Church and the Claflin University Concert Choir.
"[King was] a prophet, an activist, a preacher and a teacher," said Lonnie Randolph Jr., president of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. He focused on exalting King and his tremendous contributions to the rights of blacks.
Other notable speakers at the event included Dennis Hayes, president of the NAACP, and Rep. Leon Howard, of the S.C. House of Representatives.
Each presidential candidate was given 10 minutes to speak, and it was made clear order was randomized to ensure fairness. First to speak was Obama, who approached the pulpit to cheers. The majority of the crowd favored Obama and cheered for him throughout the event.
Obama honored King in his speech.
"There are many lessons to take from this man," Obama said.
He reminded the crowd he was raised without wealth as a child and spoke about the millions of homeless Americans.
He also spoke on the war in Iraq. He said it was "a war I believe should have never been authorized."
Obama's speech ended on a hopeful note and said, "I am convinced we can change this country."
Second to speak was Edwards who spent the first portion of his speech commending Obama and Clinton for their courage to rise above adversity and run for the presidential office.
"All three of us are on a journey with you to equality," Edwards said.
Edwards mentioned he saw King speak about the Vietnam War and also spoke on the war in Iraq.
"It is time for us to bring our men and women home from Iraq," Edwards said.
Raising minimum wage and installing a universal health care system in America were other topics acknowledged by Edwards.
Clinton was last to speak.
"That we stand here is a legacy to Martin Luther King and his work," Clinton said as she began her speech.
Clinton, like Edwards, also noted she had the opportunity to see King speak. Clinton also focused on improving schools and veteran's rights.
"Our freedom is never fully realized until it is fully shared," Clinton said toward the end of her speech.
Along with celebrating the life of King, another important topic of the day was the debate over the Confederate flag. It was mentioned by many of the rally's speakers, but it was Floyd Keith, executive director of Black Coaches and Administrators, who quoted Coach Steve Spurrier and said, "That damn flag needs to come down."
© 2008 The Daily Gamecock via U-WIRE