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Updating Dr. King's Dream

Arms linked, a crowd of 300 marched Thursday through downtown Atlanta and the neighborhoods where Martin Luther King Jr. grew up to mark the 40th anniversary of the slain civil rights leader's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Political and community leaders, including presidential candidate Al Sharpton, led the march through the city's historic Sweet Auburn district to a rally that eventually drew about 400 people at the MLK National Historic Site.

Rep. John Lewis, who helped organize the original March on Washington in 1963 where King delivered his oration, reflected on the progress made since then.

"In 1963, I was on the outside protesting, looking in," Lewis said. "But because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I am now on the inside making laws.

"I wish Medgar Evers, President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy ... and many others were here today to see how far we've come."

Coretta Scott King focused on the legacy of her late husband's words.

"Martin's call to interracial brotherhood and sisterhood has enduring resonance because it speaks so eloquently to the longing for unity that resides in the hearts of all people of good will," she said. "He painted a dazzling word picture of a multicultural democracy of the America that could be, the America that should be."

In Washington, Martin Luther King III addressed the National Press Club and updated his late father's 40-year-old dream for racial equality with a call for universal health care, economic parity for minorities and the elimination of the "state-sponsored terrorism" of capital punishment.

He also lashed out at opponents of affirmative action for trying to "twist" the meaning of the words of his father, who once said he hoped someday children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

King said his father often advocated the "preferential hiring of the disadvantaged. ... To abandon affirmative action is to say there is nothing more to be done about discrimination."

King left Washington and boarded a plane to Ohio, where he urged a crowd of several hundred Thursday night to continue their economic boycott of Cincinnati. He said the boycott is in the tradition of his father's civil rights work.

Black activists began the boycott in 2001 after a white policeman fatally shot an unarmed black man running from officers trying to arrest him. The shooting led to three nights of riots.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at a rally in New Haven, Conn., for striking Yale University workers, reminded the crowd that King's speech also was about broken promises the government made after slavery, jobs for Americans and civil rights legislation.

"If you just focus on the dream ... the dream can become an illusion," Jackson said. "Because the dream has in it no enforcement powers. The dream has no budget for priorities."

By Louise Chu

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