Obama honors Martin Luther King on inauguration eve
AFP - 2 hours 2 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Barack Obama called Monday on a nation reeling from economic crisis and war to march together in the spirit of Martin Luther King as he prepared to take office as America's first black president.
"Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr King's dream echoes still," Obama said 24 hours before his inauguration, as he marked the national holiday commemorating the slain civil right hero's birth.
"As we do, we recognize that here in America, our destinies are inextricably linked," he said in a statement.
"We resolve that as we walk, we must walk together. And as we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let's remember King's lesson -- that our separate dreams are really one."
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said nearly seven in 10 African-Americans believe that with the election of Obama , King's dream of racial equality has been fulfilled.
Aides said Obama's call for a new spirit of national sacrifice will figure heavily in his inaugural address after he is sworn in around noon Tuesday, as he gets to grips with the nation's longest recession since World War II.
His team said Obama will quickly get down to work on hustling through an economic stimulus package, and convening his top military brass to map a way out of Iraq while redeploying US troops in Afghanistan.
On a day of events in praise of community service, Obama began with a low-key visit to wounded troops in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where revelations of squalor and neglect became a national scandal a year ago.
Later Monday, Obama was to attend three dinners honoring the spirit of bipartisanship that he says he will restore to Washington.
The honorees were Obama's Republican rival for the presidency, Senator John McCain, vice president-elect Joseph Biden and former secretary of state Colin Powell.
Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki meanwhile said that all five crew members of a US Airways jet that safely ditched in New York's Hudson River Thursday had been invited to Tuesday's inauguration ceremony on Capitol Hill.
As a light coating of snow dusted Washington, crowds gathered in front of the White House to snap photographs of Obama's new residence and the temporary stand erected for dignitaries to watch Tuesday's inaugural parade.
"I'm 41 and I've never experienced anything this big," said Keith Smith, an African-American Washington native and city employee.
"There is a whole lot of energy and excitement in the atmosphere -- it takes our mind off the bad economy and job losses," he said.
On Sunday, Obama stood in the shadow of the memorial dedicated to Civil War president Abraham Lincoln to deliver a somber overview of the perils ahead.
The site was where King in 1963, five years before his assassination, gave his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech, a dream where his children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
"In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis," Obama said.
"But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard," he said, after a star-studded concert to kick off the inaugural party.
Hundreds of thousands attended the concert , the advance guard of an inaugural crowd expected to number millions, as an elaborate security operation began with police and army reservists taking up position across the US capital.
Torrey Pocock, 38, said he had always voted Republican but was in town to witness the festival of democracy.
"For the country, given its past history (of racism), to put its trust in an African-American president is an incredible thing," he said.
"This is an opportunity to see a bloodless revolution, a opportunity to completely change regimes."
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A painting of Martin Luther King. Barack Obama was paying homage to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Monday as he called for a new spirit of service to overcome war and economic crisis during his looming presidency.
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