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Obamas celebrate King’s birthday at worship service

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Yolanda King, 3, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s granddaughter, and her mother, Arndrea King, visited his new memorial in Washington.

WASHINGTON - President Obama and his family celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at a Sunday worship service, as the legacy of the civil rights leader was remembered at events across the country.

Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia sat in the second row of Washington’s Zion Baptist Church as the church commemorated King’s 83rd birthday, which is officially observed today.

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A program for the service bore a photo of King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the words “I Have a Dream.’’ A church deacon welcomed the first family and read a passage from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’’

The sermon, delivered by the Rev. Keith Byrd, drew from Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew, which refers to the salt of the earth. Byrd urged the congregation to “preserve our morals, preserve our values’’ like salt amid political, social, and economic turmoil.

In New York, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators joined artists, celebrities, and others at a candlelight vigil last night.

The vigil was at Riverside Church, which hosted a program that included performances by Patti Smith and other artists, and speeches by Yoko Ono and Russell Simmons.

Members of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union gathered outside a midtown Manhattan hotel for a separate candlelight tribute to King.

King, a Baptist minister and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was born Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta. He was assassinated 44 years ago in Memphis, Tenn.

A new memorial to King, which opened in August in Washington, celebrates the ideals he espoused. Quotations from his speeches and writings conjure memories of his message, and a 30-foot sculpture depicts King emerging as a “stone of hope’’ from a “mountain of despair,’’ a design inspired by a line of his famous “I Have a Dream’’ speech.

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