Nation Commemorates King Holiday

President Obama served meals to the homeless Monday in Washington D.C., one of several ways he commemorated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Meanwhile in Atlanta, Dr. Cornel West gave the keynote speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church, reminding those in the pulpits that King's legacy is one of service, and that the election of the nation's first black president doesn't mean the work is done.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

(Soundbite of applause)

SIEGEL: That's how the first family was welcomed this morning at So Others Might Eat, a D.C. social service organization blocks away from the White House. President Barack Obama, sporting a green apron and the obligatory food service gloves, helped serve hot meals to the homeless, one way that he marked today's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified People: (Singing) Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

SIEGEL: At King's home church in Atlanta, the mood was both celebratory and cautionary.

Princeton scholar Cornel West contrasted the civil rights leader and the nation's first black president.

Dr. CORNEL WEST (Professor, Princeton University): Brother Barack is the smiling, friendly face of the American government. Forty years ago that's the government that hunted Martin down. That's the progress that we made. But the same kind of accountability must be put forward to ensure that poor people and working people have - ought to be at the center of a policy, job creation, at the center of our policy. And it's going to be difficult to have a peace prize if you're a war president. It's going to be very difficult. We're going to help you. We love you. But we're going to keep you accountable, too.

SIEGEL: Cornel West speaking at Ebenezer Baptist Church today, the church where Martin Luther King preached from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.

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