Full Text January 16, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Martin Luther King, Jr. Day National Day of Service

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First and Second Families Participate in a National Day of Service

Source: WH, 1-16-12

President Obama at Browne

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Browne Education Campus in Washington, D.C., before participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day service event with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia, Jan. 16, 2012. January 16, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama, the First Lady, and Malia Obama volunteered at a local elementary school as part of a national day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King, who devoted his life to helping others, once said that “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

Before pitching in to help clean, paint, and organize the school’s library, the President spoke to other volunteers from Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Greater DC Cares gathered for the event:

There’s nobody who can’t serve. Nobody who can’t help somebody else. And whether you’re seven or six or whether you’re 76, then you can find opportunities to make an enormous difference in your community.

The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden also joined the millions of Americans participating in service events around the country. They traveled to Philadelphia to take part in the 17th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in the nation.

Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden participate in MLK Day 
service event
Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend the 17th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service at Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 16, 2012. January 16, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Read more about how the Obama Administration is honoring Dr. King’s legacy through service:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service Event

Browne Education Campus
Washington, D.C.

9:57 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good morning, everybody!

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, this looks like an outstanding group, I can already tell.  I’m not going to make a long speech, because we’re here to do some work.  But mainly what I want to do is just to say thank you to all of you for participating.  I know there are a lot of organizations that are represented here today.  We are so glad to be at this outstanding school where we’re going to be doing a whole bunch of stuff to make it — make the facilities even better than they already are.

But this is the third year now that Michelle and Malia and usually Sasha is here — she couldn’t make it today — that we provide or engage in some sort of service on Dr. King’s birthday.  And there’s no better way to celebrate Dr. King than to do something on behalf of others.

I know there’s been a lot of controversy lately about the quote on the memorial and they’re changing it and making some modifications, but if you look at that speech talking about Dr. King as a drum major, what he really said was that all of us can be a drum major for service, all of us can be a drum major for justice.  There’s nobody who can’t serve.  Nobody who can’t help somebody else.  And whether you’re seven or six or whether you’re 76, then you can find opportunities to make an enormous difference in your community.  And at a time when the country has been going through some difficult economic times, for us to be able to come together as a community, people from all different walks of life, and make sure that we’re giving back, that’s ultimately what makes us the strongest, most extraordinary country on Earth, is because we pull together when times are good, but also when times are hard.  And you guys all represent that.

So on behalf of our family, we want to say thank you.  I’m sure Dr. King, were he here, he’d want to say thank you.  And I look forward to spending some time next to you guys.  Hopefully I have some good instructors here so that I don’t mess anything up.  So if you’re putting a paintbrush in my hands, make sure that I’ve got some very clear lines, and I’ll try to stay within them.

All right?  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
10:00 A.M. EST

History Buzz January 16, 2012: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Past & Present at the White House

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

President Obama and Dr. King

Source: WH, 1-16-12

President Obama visits MLK memorial at night

President Barack Obama tours the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

It’s been 29 years since President Reagan signed the law to create a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year for the first time, however, those who wish to honor Dr. King on the holiday will be able gather in celebration at his memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Seven years ago, then-Senator Obama spoke at the groundbreaking for the memorial.

And back in October, the President spoke at its dedication, where he described the way that Dr. King continues to inspire new generations to work to fulfill his legacy:

He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.

And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us. And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become. That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American — because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead. This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.

From the Archives: Dr. Martin Luther King at the White House

Source: WH, 1-16-12

Martin Luther King, Jr. leaves the West Wing after meeting with  President Johnson

Martin Luther King, Jr. leaves the West Wing after meeting with President Johnson. August 5, 1965. Abbie Rowe, NPS: National Archive and Records Administration. (by Abbie Rowe, NPS: National Archive and Records Administration)

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Civil Rights leaders in the  Oval Office

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer in the Oval Office. January 18, 1964. . (by Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

To mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the White House Historical Association has searched their archives and created a slideshow of historic images that show the impact the civil rights leader has had on several administrations. Dr King’s interactions with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson leading up to the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and the 1968 Civil Rights Act are well documented, but his first visit to the White House was actually in 1958, when he and other prominent civil rights leaders met with President Dwight Eisenhower. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Life and Legacy features images of Dr. King himself at the White House and also includes photos of President Reagan signing the King Holiday Bill in 1983 with Coretta Scott King at his side, and President Obama and his family at the national memorial that was dedicated just last year.

See the slideshow on Flickr

From the Archives: President Reagan Designates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a Federal Holiday

Source: WH, 1-13-12

Reagan signs MLK Day legislation

President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to create a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Rose Garden of the White House on November 2, 1983. (by National Archives)

Only three people have a national holiday observed in their honor: Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday of January each year, marks the birthday of the civil rights leader and nonviolent activist. The call for a national holiday to honor Dr. King’s legacy began soon after his assassination in 1968—U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced legislation to establish the holiday just four days after Dr. King was killed, but Congress took no action on the bill.

In the years that followed, millions of people signed petitions in support of the holiday. Coretta Scott King testified before Congress multiple times, calling for a federally recognized day to honor the life and work of her late husband. In 1980, Stevie Wonder released a song, “Happy Birthday,” which became both a hit and a rallying cry for supporters of the holiday, and civil rights marches in Washington in 1982 and 1983 only served to amplify their mission.

A bill to establish the holiday successfully passed through both houses of Congress in 1983, and President Reagan signed it into law on November 20 of that year. The first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated in 1986.

Many Americans now honor Dr. King’s legacy by participating in a community service event in their own neighborhood andhis vision of service and volunteering is more critical than ever during this economic recovery. President Obama has called on the nation to participate in a service event in their own community this Monday, January 16, 2012.

The First and Second Families, numerous members of the President’s cabinet, and thousands of other Americans across the country have committed to serve, and you can, too. Visit MLKDay.gov to find a service opportunity in your neighborhood and learn more about the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

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