Martin Luther King: keeping the dream alive

 Across the nation, Americans celebrated the life of the Dr Martin Luther King Jr on the anniversary of his birthday yesterday and all this week. The clergyman and civil rights leader was assassinated on 4 April, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, but his wisdom, philosophy and dream for a new way of life is still very much alive.

A staunch advocate of nonviolent protest, Dr King sparked the consciences of Americans on both sides of the colour line, uniting them in marches and protests to support the civil rights cause. He led the fight to end segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s. In an interview with CBS News his son, Martin Luther King III, who is the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta explained how he - and others of his generation - carries on the dream.

He said: "My father led the civil rights movement to transform a racist and discriminating society into a 'beloved community', that ensured quality, full employment, national health care, education and guaranteed annual income for all persons. "As we walk into the third millennium, human rights organisation in the United States and around the globe continue to use Dr King's nonviolent principles to fight social injustices."

He said he plans to challenge the Georgia legislature to change the current flag that includes the Confederate emblem or face an economic withdrawal campaign. In 1986 President Reagan declared the third Monday in January a federal holiday for Americans to observe and reflect on the principles of racial equality and Dr King's philosophies. Most states declared Monday a state holiday as well although there were several stragglers. Arizona refused to recognise the day until November 1992.

New Hampshire was the last state to introduce the holiday in June 1999. From coast to coast now, schools, offices and federal agencies are closed for the day, and holiday memorial services, ceremonies and events are being held all week to remember King and his message.

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