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Countdown to Obama presidency as King remembered

Reuters

Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:45pm EST

By Matt Spetalnick and Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the eve of his historic inauguration, Barack Obama joined on Monday in honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, underscoring racial barriers the Illinois Democrat overcame to be elected the first black U.S. president.

Taking time away from preparing for an address he will deliver when he is sworn in on Tuesday, Obama visited wounded troops at a military hospital and issued a call to Americans to remember King by recommitting themselves to public service.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors streamed into Washington for inaugural festivities but the celebration was tempered by the daunting challenges Obama will face — unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama’s inauguration, coming back-to-back with Monday’s federal holiday honoring King, has added to the deep symbolism of an African-American receiving the keys to the White House, which was built partly with the labor of black slaves.

“Today, we celebrate the life of a preacher who, more than 45 years ago, stood on our national mall in the shadow of Lincoln and shared his dream for our nation,” Obama said in a statement.

“Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King’s dream echoes still. As we do, we recognize that here in America, our destinies are inextricably linked. We resolve that as we walk, we must walk together.”

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