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Nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day

SHARE Nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day

ATLANTA — First Lady Laura Bush called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a man "committed to peace and a man committed to change" Monday 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. "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."

Mrs. Bush was among the national and state leaders who gathered to honor King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King once co-pastored with his father. King, assassinated in 1968 at age 39, would have turned 73 last Tuesday.

Mrs. Bush, in her 10-minute speech, said King "shaped our laws, our conscious and our history."

"American history is unimaginable without him," Mrs. Bush told the standing room only crowd. She praised his support for education and its role in building character as well as knowledge.

Gov. Roy Barnes called King a man who spoke with a voice of passion and compassion. Sen. Max Cleland said he thought King would have been pleased "at how we've come together since Sept. 11.

As she did last year, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, asked people to use the King holiday Monday as a day of service.

In Detroit for a prayer breakfast, her son Martin Luther King III brought a similar message.

"We don't see it as a day off," he said. "We see it as a day on which people can be involved in community service."

At a gathering in Boston, Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of King, recalled that her father had long expected that he wouldn't live past age 40. He had died one day after he predicted his own death in a speech supporting striking city sanitation workers.

"He was as prepared as he could ever be," Ms. King said. "He was very much at peace with what he said. I don't know if he knew it would be the next day."

Ms. King, an actress, producer and lecturer, recalled another side to her father: a prankster who related easily to his children.

"He was a big kid with us. We got to see the fun side. My memories are so full of love and laughter, and mischievousness," she said.

New York's new mayor, Michael Bloomberg, warmly greeted David Dinkins, the only black to be elected thhcity's mayor, during a

City Hall ceremony Monday morning. He called Dinkins "a friend, an adviser, and someone whose judgment I respect."

Later in the day, Bloomberg planned to attend the Rev. Al Sharpton's annual tribute to King. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had avoided contact with Sharpton, and Dinkins had rarely visited City Hall during Giuliani's tenure.