Remarks of the Deputy Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, Jr.

A Special Commemoration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bonaparte Auditorium, J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington D.C.

January 14, 2000 - 12:00 Noon

Thank you for that kind introduction, Bill. Good afternoon everyone.

We are gathered once again to celebrate the birthday of a remarkable man, a great American and to commemorate his life's work. As we do so, we should stand in awe of Dr. King's accomplishments. But just as importantly, we should -- indeed, we must -- dedicate ourselves to continuing his struggle so that one day we can truly say that ALL Americans are treated equally, fairly, and justly.

Dr. King was a true visionary. He dreamed of the eradication of all forms of injustice and inequality. But Dr. King's greatness is found not only in his dreams but also in his work. In the short time that he was with us, he worked hard to liberate all Americans, both oppressor and those who were oppressed, and his words and his actions inspired millions of people of all races to join together in making a positive difference.

As we look around us today and at this diverse audience in this place, there is no question that we have traveled far from the segregated facilities and discriminatory practices that were so commonplace only forty years ago. And yet, sadly, nearly thirty-two years after his death, Dr. King's work is still not complete. Though the dream endures, the work remains. Even the most casual glance at today's headlines reminds us that prejudice and hate continue to define the actions, and to afflict the lives, of too many of our fellow Americans. It is still the case that too many Americans are denied full participation in the American experience because of their skin color, gender, physical capabilities or sexual orientation.

And so it is incumbent upon each of us to continue to breathe life into the rich legacy that Dr. King left us. Far too often, Dr. King is remembered only through faded pictures. His inspiring words are remembered only once a year at ceremonies such as this. But Dr. King's legacy should teach us that the greatness of each person's life is determined by that person's work. Whether it was desegregating a bus line, challenging discrimination in housing or fighting for the economic well-being of laborers, Dr. King worked in every way he could to make better the lives of his fellow citizens. And so today, and everyday, in order to truly celebrate Dr. King's ideals, we must rededicate ourselves to act on the dreams we share with him for our country. In order to do this, we must look for injustice and where we find it, destroy it. We must look for intolerance and where we encounter it, fight it. We must search for discrimination and where it exists we must end it. This nation will never realize its full greatness unless we make real Dr. King's vision of a land where equality is universal and where justice is commonplace.

The Department of Justice plays a very special role in this effort. You play every special role in this effort. It is important to remember that through our actions, we serve as examples for the rest of the country. Last year I asked all of you to pause for a moment and ask yourselves, "What have I done in the past year and what will I do in the coming year to give life to the dream of Dr. King?" While I am certain that many of you have taken actions that have, even in some small way, helped to further Dr. King's ideals I urge everyone to renew their pledge today. For if we promise to give of ourselves and act on those promises, work to fulfill those promises, we can ensure that Dr. King's dream, his life's work, and the countless efforts he inspired, might endure.

Thank you.

I now have the distinct pleasure of introducing a woman who through her life's work, including her work here at the Department of Justice has done much to make Dr. King's dream a reality for all Americans. We are lucky to have her here and I am proud to work with her - the Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno.