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We Pause To Remember

Family members of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. politicians assembled nationwide Monday at breakfast prayers and annual tributes to memorialize the slain civil rights leader on the federal King holiday.

Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of the late reverend, recalled that her father long expected that he wouldn't live past age 40.

That expectation came true on April 4, 1968, when James Earl Ray shot King at a Memphis motel, one day after he predicted his own death in a speech supporting striking city sanitation workers. He was 39.

“He was as prepared as he could ever be,” said Ms. King, who was the keynote speaker at Boston's annual MLK Memorial Breakfast. “He was very much at peace with what he said. I don't know if he knew it would be the next day.”

In Detroit for a prayer breakfast, her brother Martin Luther King III said his father would be pleased with progress in the civil rights movement, but noted there are issues such as poverty that remain troublesome.

He said he hoped those honoring his father with the holiday would give back to society.

“We don't see it as a day off,” Martin Luther King III said. “We see it as a day on which people can be involved in community service.”

At a White House ceremony President Bush honored King as a "modern American hero" and promised to increase federal education funding to help blacks and other minorities overcome obstacles in school.

Accompanied by the civil rights leader's widow, Coretta Scott King, Bush signed a proclamation crediting King with helping the United States "become a fairer and more colorblind society." But Mr. Bush cautioned: "There is much work to be done, both at home and abroad."

To mark the federal holiday and reach out to minorities, the White House announced that Mr. Bush's budget for next year would include more than $350 million to strengthen historically black and Hispanic colleges and universities -- an increase of more than $12 million over current funding levels. Bush has pledged to increase funding for these colleges and universities by 30 percent between 2001 and 2005.

"To honor the legacy of Dr. King, we must continue to support the institutions that offer our minority and disadvantaged students opportunities through higher education," Education Secretary Rod Paige said. "We have committed the resources we need to get that job done."

Bush said the Department of Education would also establish the "Martin Luther King Jr. Scholars Program."

When he was alive, Dr. King inspired many with his impassioned speeches and dramatic stands on behalf of civil rights, workers' rights, human rights and non-violence.

But the fact that he is widely admired today - the subject of countless elementary school essays and pageants, an American whose name is frequently invoked to bring communities together - should not obscure a central fact of his life.

Dr. King was a controversial man, so much so thathe FBI dogged his every move, and his life ended with an assassin's bullet.

Celebrations of the holiday were planned around the nation as prayer breakfasts, parades and speeches mark the 16th observance of the national holiday that bears his name.

In Atlanta, First Lady Laura Bush called King - who would have turned 73 last Tuesday - a man "committed to peace and a man committed to change'' at a tribute to the late civil rights leader at the church where he once preached.

"He stood for truth, he did the will of God and made America a more just nation," Mrs. Bush said at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where national and state leaders who gathered to honor the civil rights leader. "All of us are deeply indebted to him, to his wife and his family and to all of those who gave him strength for his journey."

In New York, new Mayor Michael Bloomberg planned to attend the Rev. Al Sharpton's annual tribute to King. That is in contrast to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had avoided contact with the civil rights leader.

But the tradition of debate over issues remains a part of the celebration of Dr. King's life and life's work.

Marchers at a parade in Philadelphia Saturday had two messages they hoped to convey: honoring the principles that King stood for, and, their own opposition to the war in Afghanistan and its civilian casualties.

Also Saturday, 800 people turned out for a "diversity festival" in Newport, Tenn., held deliberately to counter a Ku Klux Klan rally held at the same time, attended by about half as many participants.

Two ministers from New York, the Rev. Willie Wade and the Rev. Ron Weinbaum, happened to be studying in the area and stopped by Newport as the dueling rallies went forward.

"Evil has to always be checked," said Wade, who is black. "It has to know that it will be fought, it will be ashamed, and it will be embarrassed and love will win out."

In Washington, the head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says Americans should use the holiday to "sit down and reflect, and think about social justice issues."

In Cambridge, Mass., the focus of a King Day march and rally Monday will be on the Harvard Living Wage Campaign, a continuing battle to raise wages and secure health and other benefits for janitorial and other Harvard University employees.

In Birmingham, Ala., there will be a re-enactment of King's famous 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" speech on civil rights, as well as a memorial march and wreath-laying ceremony.

In Denver, some 30,000 people are expected to participate in the annual King Day parade, billed by organizers as one of the nation's largest.

In a CBS News Radio interview, Dr. Joseph Lowery, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who worked side by side with Dr. King, says conditions have improved since the 1960s.

But he believes Dr. King would bemoan the lack of progress on many fronts, including the fact that blacks are still way behind whites in medin income.

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