WASHINGTON – President Bush said Monday that there is still "much work" to be done in striving for Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of a color-blind society. Bush emphasized the influence of the civil-rights leader on today's society as he signed a proclamation for King's birthday.
King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and a group of educators at the ceremony agreed. They said children need to know more about the Nobel Peace Prize winner and the struggle for civil rights.
"They need to know just what sacrifices our people made so they could be free," said Marion McCarthy, a retired elementary school teacher from Macon, Georgia. She added that many kids know King's birthday only because it means a three-day weekend.
While King's "I Have a Dream" speech and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" are school curriculum staples, his widow said more of his principles — particularly hope and nonviolence — need to be taught.
"One of the things that he did was to generate hope for people. Whenever he spoke to the people he was able to lift them up — lift them up to a higher place," she said.
Mrs. King encouraged people to volunteer for community service, suggesting mentioning a child, cleaning up neighborhoods and helping feed the homeless.
"I think when we have a number of activities and things that are tributes to him, it seems to renew, reinvigorate, re-inspire people to continue in that struggle," she said. "And I think people are needing something after the Sept. 11 attacks."
Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, said more than just a feel-good speech would be needed to celebrate the King holiday. Bond encouraged people to help social organizations, from his own group to the Girl Scouts.
"One problem with many King celebrations is that they are passive. People gather, hear a speech from someone like me. They applaud and everybody leaves feeling good. But you've got to do more than that," Bond said. "One person acting by herself can cause mountains to move. And almost the opposite, but a complementary lesson, is that thousands of people acting together can move mountains, too."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.