King's Daughter Challenges Americans to Meet Their 'Calling'

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - Martin Luther King Jr's daughter called on Americans today to follow in her father's footsteps by carrying out their own God-given assignments just as King carried out his.

"As we move into the 21st century, it's going to be incumbent upon all of us to realize that while Martin Luther King Jr. was a great and awesome man, that we, too, have a calling and assignment in this life," the Reverend Bernice King said at the annual church service marking the King holiday.

"Today, God is calling upon all of us to look at ourselves and ask the question, 'What is it that I am to do to further the cause of freedom, justice and equality?'"

Vice President Al Gore, Governor Roy Barnes, Mayor Bill Campbell and other dignitaries joined in the service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father both preached.

In his remarks to the group, Gore announced that the Clinton administration will seek $1.5 million in the fiscal 2001 budget to help protect the place where King was born. King's birth home, which is to become part of a national historic site in Atlanta, "is literally the cradle of America's civil rights movement," Gore said.

Gore also announced that $500,000 in private donations will be added to $500,000 already set aside by the federal government to restore Ebenezer's historic sanctuary, saying, "we must preserve this place and preserve the spirit of this place for future generations."

After the service, Barnes and Campbell planned to lead a march and rally in honor of King, who would have turned 71 on Saturday.

On Sunday, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, said that her husband's legacy could best be honored by serving others.
"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members," Mrs. King, 72, told a "service summit" at Georgia State University.

Around the country, many service activities -- blood drives, neighborhood cleanups and Habitat for Humanity house-building projects -- were planned today.

In New Hampshire, Governor Jeanne Shaheen has asked residents to celebrate the state's first day honoring King by giving something back to their communities.

After 20 years of debate, the New Hampshire Legislature last year added King's name to the state's Civil Rights holiday. Shaheen signed the legislation in June.

"There is no better way to honor Dr. King than to spend Monday giving back to our communities in his memory. He encouraged us to work together to build better, stronger and more united communities and he showed us that we can make a difference," Shaheen said.

Community leaders in New Orleans plan to announce a new gun buy-back program. In Boston, volunteers plan to clean up trash near Northeastern University and hold an educational fair to teach youngsters about King's life and legacy.

In Washington, DC, volunteers plan to renovate the Martin Luther King Homeless Shelter.

The largest citywide service project is planned in Philadelphia, where more than 18,000 volunteers are expected to join in projects, including planting trees, painting schools, clearing out abandoned houses and sorting groceries at food banks.

The federal King holiday, which President Reagan signed into law in 1983, has widely become known as a day of volunteerism and community service.

"The concept here is that service to others is a way to connect to the divine," Mrs. King said Sunday. She urged the service summit audience to fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination and environmental destruction with "a healing and hopeful heart."

"History is calling for this generation to put right the injustices of this nation and this world," she said.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo joined Mrs. King at the summit, using the King holiday to call for increased public awareness of the Fair Housing Act to fight housing discrimination.

"We have this very powerful tool that Dr. King left us,'' Cuomo told news reporters on Sunday. "We now have to use it. Discrimination is still alive and well."