Candidates Pay Homage to Fallen Rights Leader

On the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama each pay tribute to the slain civil rights leader and his legacy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Today, the presidential candidates marked the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King was in Memphis on April 4th, 1968, when he stepped onto a motel balcony and into the sight of a sniper's rifle. He had visited the city to support striking sanitation workers.

Today, Democratic candidate Barack Obama spoke about King's trip to Memphis, and larger concerns about poverty in America.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Dr. King understood that the struggle for economic justice and the struggle for racial justice were really won, that each was a part of a larger struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity.

SIEGEL: That's Barack Obama speaking today in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, was in Memphis today, and she, too, spoke about poverty.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): I believe we should appoint a Cabinet-level position that will be solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it in America. A position…

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. CLINTON: …that will focus the attention of our nation on this issue and never let it go; a person whom I would see being asked by the president every single day, what have you done to end poverty in America?

SIEGEL: That was Hillary Clinton. John McCain was also in Memphis today. He spoke to the group that King led, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And McCain struck a note of personal repentance.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): We can be slow as well to give greatness its due — a mistake, I myself made long ago when I voted against the federal holiday in memory of Dr. King.

(Soundbite of crowd yelling)

Sen. McCAIN: I was wrong.

Unidentified Woman: Thank you…

Sen. McCAIN: I was wrong.

Unidentified Man: We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

Sen. McCAIN: I was wrong, and eventually realized that in time to give full support, full support for a state holiday at my home state of Arizona.

SIEGEL: Senator McCain was speaking 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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