"'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 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..." -Secretary Ben Carson
[C-SPAN] President Trump signed a proclamation to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The civil rights activist's nephew and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson also spoke at the ceremony. (Screengrab via C-SPAN)
President Trump's remarks prior to signing:
"Good morning, everybody. Thank you very much. I want to thank Secretary Carson along with Mr. Farris Jr. for joining us today. Earlier this week, I had the privilege to join Isaac and others to sign into law legislation redesigning the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. The new law expands the area protected, 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—on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr was born in Atlanta. He decided to follow the calling of his father and grandfather to become a Christian pastor. He would later write '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 in his love for humanity led him and so many 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 stood with 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 truths Americans hold so dear, that no matter what color of our skin or the place of our birth, we're 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 a 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."
Secretary Carson's remarks:
"Thank you, Mr. President, it's an honor here today on this solemn occasion. And I thank you for signing legislation for designating 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 Mt. 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 causes 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 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. At a moment when he was called to new life with his Creator, before Whom all men will 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 our 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."
Mr. Isaac Newton Farris' remarks:
"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?' That is 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 he was one of the greatest Americans that we produced. But it should not be a day of hero worship. And that is why Congress agreed with my aunt, and also made it a day of service. We, on that day at the King center, refer it to it as a day on, not a day off. It is 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 cannot get to the end of the driveway. Bottom line, you are doing something that benefits something other than yourself. That is 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 are all Americans and on this day we should be united in love for all Americans."
(Watch the video here)
To read the President's full proclamation for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, click here.