Nation Marks Martin Luther King Day

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The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s (search) widow called Monday for an end to acrimony in politics as Americans paused to remember the slain civil rights leader.

Coretta Scott King (search) talked last year about avoiding war in Iraq, and her plea for nonviolence returned this year. "Peaceful ends can only be reached through peaceful means," she said in her annual King Day address.

But this year, with the presidential contest looming, Mrs. King also talked about peace at home.

"The noblest goal is not conquest of enemies but reconciliation with adversaries. We must remember in this election year that Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, we are all sisters and brothers," she said.

The audience at Ebenezer Baptist Church (search), where King preached until his assassination in 1968, included King's children, sister and other dignitaries. Hymns were led by the chorus from Morehouse College (search), King's Atlanta alma mater.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin drew a thunderous standing ovation for her barbs at President Bush.

"Perhaps some prefer to honor the dreamer while ignoring or fighting the dream," she said. "For those of us who hold elective office, the public policy we advocate and adopt -- from foreign affairs to domestic budgeting -- tells the real story of our celebration of Dr. King's legacy. ... Can't we protect our borders and promote peace around the world?"

On King's actual birthday last week in Atlanta, hundreds had protested President Bush's visit to King's tomb, chanting, "Peace, not war; that's what Martin stood for."

King would have turned 75 on Thursday.

In Tallahassee, Fla., about a dozen students walked out Monday before Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, spoke at historically black Florida A&M University. In a statement, the students criticized his views on affirmative action, among other things.

The governor said the students have every right to express their views. Jeb Bush also said Florida A&M's success "could not have occurred without the struggles that Dr. King and many others a generation ago undertook."

The daylong celebrations of King Day were to include memorials, church services and volunteer projects around the country. Organizers of holiday events have long emphasized the importance of community service, exhorting citizens to "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On. ... Not a Day Off."

In Dallas, hundreds of spectators cheered and clapped as floats and marching bands paraded through city streets.

"The struggle is not over," said parade organizer Daryl Blair. "That's just not for blacks, that's for whites alike. We have to understand that this is a melting pot and the civil rights movement was about unity, not just for the black race but for mankind."

The Rev. Vashti Murphy-McKenzie, the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, told a holiday breakfast gathering in Boston that some progress has been eroded.

"The chipping away of minority set-asides, the chipping away of scholarships for minority students, affirmative action forever under attack -- that says it's good, but it's not good enough," she said.

An annual march through Atlanta's historic Sweet Auburn district, where King grew up, was planned for the afternoon, and more than 15,000 people were expected to eat at the Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry dinner at Turner Field. Williams, one of King's top lieutenants in the civil rights battle, died in 2000 after a battle with cancer.