On Monday, January 20, 2003, the nation will pause to pay homage to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday was created to celebrate his life, and on Monday each of us will do that in our own way.
This is the thirty-fifth year since the assassination of Dr. King, but his words and deeds continue to inspire. As Americans, this holiday reminds us that we must continue to strive, as one nation indivisible, for justice and equality for all.
In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King declared that when our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written, our forefathers were in effect signing a promissory note that every American would inherit. Dr. King's lifetime struggle was to ensure that this note - or as he put it, "the riches of freedom and the security of justice" - be paid in full to all citizens. This is the struggle to which we are called to dedicate ourselves.
Dr. King's dreams for this nation are deeply woven into HUD's history and our ongoing mission. The common theme of all of our actions is service to others, and our programs reach out to Americans of every race, color, and creed. We extend our hand to low-wage workers struggling to buy a home, those who cannot afford to rent a home, and those who have no shelter at all. We exist to serve the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor, and we support the charitable work of America's community of faith. HUD is irrevocably linked to this extraordinary American through legislation passed by Congress just one week after Dr. King's assassination - the Fair Housing Act, which is at the very heart of so much of our work.
The Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday is a time when Americans can demonstrate their commitment to these ideals with an outpouring of community service. I call upon the men and women of HUD to embrace this holiday as a "day on," not a day off, and to do so with a heart-felt rededication to the great goals of freedom, justice, and peace.
In his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Dr. King closed with hopeful words that still inspire: "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."