Lesson in courage – Martin Luther King Jr. commemorated in speeches, songs | TheUnion.com

Lesson in courage – Martin Luther King Jr. commemorated in speeches, songs

OAKLAND – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called Martin Luther King Jr. one of his heroes and said the acclaimed civil rights leader stands “at the summit of the American experience.”

Schwarzenegger joined Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and several San Francisco Bay area spiritual leaders Monday for a tribute to King. An estimated 1,500 people flocked to Allen Temple Baptist Church, located in East Oakland, for an event punctuated with prayer and song.

The governor told a mostly black audience in his short address that courage was one of the main lessons he gleaned from King’s life. Though once scorned, threatened, and even jailed, King continued to pursue what was just, proving that “the nobility of public service does not exist” without courage, Schwarzenegger said to applause.

“Courage, courage, courage,” Schwarzenegger said. “This is an important lesson that we must teach our children. The lesson, like Dr. King’s legacy, is timeless.”

King, born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929, would have turned 76 on Saturday. The former Baptist minister led a march of 250,000 on Washington in August 1963 and is best known for his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.

He was assassinated in 1968 at age 39, near the time that Schwarzenegger emigrated from Austria.

The event in Oakland was one of many marches, rallies and tributes that took place around the country and the Bay Area, including a freedom march in San Francisco that was expected to attract thousands.

Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, packed food boxes for the poor at the Volunteer Center of Orange County to observe the holiday. Shriver, wearing a colorful shirt with “California” written across it, told volunteers that one person could make a difference.

“You don’t have to be as famous as Dr. Martin Luther King. In fact, his great quote says that all of us can be great – not famous, but great – because greatness comes from service,” she said.

Bay Area spiritual leaders hailed Schwarzenegger’s decision to attend the Oakland event, thanking him for pulling himself away from a rash of problems in the state – the budget, the Bay Bridge, “mudslides and mudslinging,” said Bishop Bob Jackson of Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church.

“This, to me as I hope to you, signals to us that when he said he would be the governor for all Californians, it was not scripted,” Jackson said. “It obviously came from the depth of his heart.”

Another pastor prayed for Schwarzenegger, asking God to give him wisdom and understanding. The governor occasionally stood up to applaud at the end of rousing gospel songs. He stepped up to the podium to calls of “God Bless You” from the crowd.

“He seemed enthused,” said one attendee, Tracy Wilson, 26, of Oakland.

“I think he really meant what he said from his heart,” said her mother, Alice Wilson, 52. “He actually cares.”

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