WASHINGTON – President Bush marked Martin Luther King Day Monday with a visit to a largely African-American church, where he said "there is still work to do" to fulfill the assassinated civil rights leader's dream of equality in America.
"It is fitting that we honor Martin Luther King in a church," Bush said, "because I believe, like you, that the power of his words, the clarity of his vision, the courage of his leadership, occurred because he put his faith in the Almighty."
"It is fitting that we honor this great American in a church because, out of church comes the notion of equality and justice," the president said at the First Baptist Church of Glenaden in Landover, Md.
"Even though progress has been made," he said, "there is still work to do. There is still prejudice. ... There's still a need for us to hear the words of Martin Luther King so that the word of hope reaches everywhere in the land."
As part of the memorial observance, the president watched a montage of King's famous speeches, listened to a sermon and swayed his head in time as choirs sang civil rights anthems like "We Shall Overcome."
Introduced by the Rev. William Jones as a "very, very special guest," Bush received a standing ovation from the predominantly black congregation.
"We don't know how you feel about him personally, but he is the president of the United States," Jones said, to loud cheers.
Bush met privately with parishioners before attending the memorial service.
The president did not discuss publicly specific proposals, including one offered Sunday to increase spending by 5 percent for grants to historically black colleges, universities and graduate programs, a gesture that would appear to be an amends-making offer following recent decisions on affirmative action and the controversial selection of a previously rejected judicial nominee.
Earlier this month, Bush returned the nomination of District Judge Charles Pickering to the Senate for consideration. Pickering was rejected by a Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee last March when complaints arose about some of his rulings which touched on race.
Just days ago, the administration submitted a brief to the Supreme Court opposing affirmative action admissions programs at the University of Michigan and its law school, which is defending its policy of awarding extra points to minority applicants.
In its brief, the administration argues that the school's policy fails the constitutional test of equal protection under the law and ignores race-neutral alternatives that could boost minority presence on campuses.
The Bush administration, which is not a party to the case, argued that while diversity is a worthwhile goal in higher education, the Michigan plan is not narrowly tailored to meet that goal.
Democrats and civil rights leaders have criticized the president's stand. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was at King's side when he was gunned down in April 1968, called Bush, "The most anti-civil rights president in 50 years."
The criticism is offered despite the fact that several of the president's most influential advisers are African-American. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Education Secretary Rod Paige have all stated their positions on the president's brief, with Rice and Paige coming out in support of the brief's limited findings and Powell saying he opposes the president's positions.
The new program money announced by the White House would affect three programs:
-- The Historically Black Colleges and Universities program makes grants to 99 eligible institutions to help strengthen infrastructure and achieve greater financial stability.
-- The Historically Black Graduate Institutions program makes five-year grants to 18 institutions to expand capacity for providing graduate-level education.
-- The Hispanic-Serving Institutions program makes grants of up to five years to eligible institutions -- those with a full-time population of at least 25 percent Hispanic students, at least 50 percent of whom are low income.
King would have turned 74 last week had he not been slain in Memphis, Tenn.
Fox News' James Rosen and the Associated Press contributed to this report.