Roosevelt Room

11:38 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Secretary Carson, along with Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., and the many distinguished guests joining us here today. It’s a great honor.

Earlier this week, I had the tremendous privilege to join Isaac and Alveda to sign into law legislation re-designating the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park. The new law expands the area to protect it and historic sites for the future generations of Americans — are becoming. So important. And this is a great honor for us and a great honor to Dr. King.

Today, we gather in the White House to honor the memory of a great American hero, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He would go on to change the course of human history.

As a young man, King decided to follow the calling of his father and grandfather to become a Christian pastor. He would later write that it was “quite easy for me to think of a God of love, mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central.” That is what Reverend King preached all his life: love — love for each other, for neighbors, and for our fellow Americans.

Dr. King’s faith and his love for humanity led him and so many other heroes to courageously stand up for civil rights of African Americans. Through his bravery and sacrifice, Dr. King opened the eyes and lifted the conscience of our nation. He stirred the hearts of our people to recognize the dignity written in every human soul.

Today, we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.

This April, we will mark a half-century since Reverend King was so cruelly taken from us by an assassin’s bullet. But while Dr. King is no longer with us, his words and his vision only grow stronger through time. Today, we mourn his loss, we celebrate his legacy, and we pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice, and peace.

I will now sign the proclamation making January 15, 2018 the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday and encourage all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King’s extraordinary life — and it was extraordinary indeed — and his great legacy.

Thank you. God bless you all. And God bless America.

And with that, I’d like to ask a great friend of mine, Secretary Carson, for remarks. Then we’re going to be signing the very important proclamation. Thank you very much.

Ben.

SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s an honor to be here today celebrating this solemn occasion. And I thank you for signing legislation to designate the birthplace, church, and tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King as a National Historic Park.

His monumental struggle for civil rights earned these places in his life, faith, and death the same honor as Mount Vernon and that famous humble log cabin in Illinois.

This April, we will observe the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. I remember so vividly that day, as a high school student in Detroit. Far from silencing his dream, death wrought him immortal in the American heart. His message of equality, justice, and the common dignity of man resounds today, urgently needed to heal the divisions of our age.

Today, we honor the legacy of the man who marched on Washington for jobs and freedom, achieving both for millions of Americans of all races and backgrounds. But his legacy also calls us to remember where these ideas — equality, freedom, liberty — get their power.

Our good efforts alone are not enough to lend them meaning. For by what shall I be called equal to another man? It cannot be by wealth, for there will always be one richer than me. It cannot be by strength, for there will always be one stronger than me. It cannot be by success or happiness or beauty or any other pieces of the human condition which are distributed through providence. So perhaps providence alone is the answer.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

With these familiar words, our Declaration of Independence recognizes the true author of our common dignity — one that is beyond every human law and institution. If we forget this source of our fundamental equality, then our fight to recognize it in our society will never be fulfilled.

This is a truth that Dr. King carried with him from Selma to Montgomery, from a pulpit in Atlanta to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, from a cell in Birmingham to the entire world.

This year, we will not remember his slaying as the ending but as a beginning — as a moment when his truth rose stronger than hatred, and his cause larger than death; as a moment when he called to new life with his Creator, before whom all men shall one day stand in equal rank bearing with them no riches but the content of their character.

If we keep this conviction at the center of our every word and action, if we look upon out countrymen as brothers with a shared home and a common destination, then instead of meaningless words rolling off of our tongue, we will truly create one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

And we’re going to have a word from Pastor Isaac Newton Farris, the nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King. (Applause.)

MR. FARRIS: President Trump, Vice President Pence, and to all assembled here: If my uncle were here today, the first thing he would say is, “What are we or what are you doing for others?” And that’s why it was so important that my aunt, Coretta Scott King, returned to the Congress, now about 10 years ago, and asked that the meaning of the holiday be changed.

We did not want the King holiday just to be a day of hero worship. As his nephew, I certainly think that he was one of the greatest Americans that we have produced. But it should not be a day of hero worship. And that’s why the Congress agreed with my aunt, and also made it a day of service so that we, on that day — as a matter of fact, at the King Center, we refer to it as “a day on, not a day off.”

It’s not a day to hang out in the park or pull out the barbeque grill. (Laughter.) It’s a day to do something to help someone else, and that can be as simple as delivering someone’s trash or picking up the newspaper for that elderly person who can’t get to the end of the driveway.

Bottom line: You’re doing something that benefits someone other than yourself. That’s the proper way to remember my uncle and the proper way to celebrate the King holiday.

So, President Trump, thank you for taking the time to acknowledge this day. Thank you for remembering that we’re all Americans and, on this day, we should be united and love for all Americans.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: This is a great and important day. Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday 2018, by the President of the United States of America, a proclamation. Congratulations to him and to everybody.

[The proclamation is signed.]

PARTICIPANT: Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)

END

11:50 A.M. EST

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