President Clinton will paint walls and repair classrooms of one of Washington’s most dilapidated public high schools Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Officials said at a White House briefing Friday they hoped Americans across the country would join in commemorating the King holiday through community service.
Clinton, along with several Cabinet members and numerous White House staffers, will volunteer at Cardozo High School. Also participating will be Harris Wofford, the chief executive officer of the Corporation for National Service, members of the AmeriCorps national service program and residents of the Shaw neighborhood where the school is located.
In another event, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Education Secretary Richard Riley will be at the capital’s MCI Center to read to children.
Vice President Al Gore will travel to Atlanta to speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church ceremonies, traditionally the heart of the King family’s holiday observances. Afterward, Gore will participate in a program at the Martin Luther King Center with the community service group Do Something.
In 1994, Clinton signed into law the King Holiday and Service Act, which reminds citizens of all races that community service can bring people together in a common cause.
King “was apathy’s sworn enemy and action’s tireless champion. Indeed, Dr. King himself once said, ‘Everybody can be great because anybody can serve,”’ Wofford said at Friday’s announcement.
Thurgood Marshall Jr., assistant to the president for Cabinet affairs, and Wofford, a former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, emphasized that the 1994 law focused on action rather than words.
For the majority of Americans and especially American students, the holiday has unfortunately become nothing more than a day off, Wofford said.
He said that while the verbal commemorations of King around the country are important, King himself would say, “You’ve got to go beyond the words.”
“In the beginning’s the word, but the word must be made flesh, and must be turned into deeds,” Wofford said. “With the dialogue. … You’ve got to also take action.”
Wofford said one of King’s last speeches addressed the urgency of seeing that every one of God’s children fulfill America’s promise.
“When Dr. King was killed and Robert Kennedy was killed, those needs of children and youth were there before us in this country, and we haven’t done enough in those 30 years,” Wofford said.