(CNN) — Events are scheduled around the United States to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as the nation marks the 25th anniversary of the holiday in the civil rights leader’s honor.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama planned to mark the day by participating in a service project in Washington.
“Martin Luther King Jr. lived his life for others, dedicating his work to ensuring equal opportunity, freedom and justice for all,” Obama said in a statement. “I encourage every American to observe this holiday in honor of Dr. King’s selfless legacy by volunteering in their own communities and by dedicating time each day to bettering the lives of those around us.”
A federal holiday to honor King, who was assassinated in April 1968, was first observed in 1986. In 1994, Congress also designated it a national day of service.
A video posted on mlkday.gov, the U.S. government website dedicated to the day, quotes King: “He who is greatest among you shall be a servant. That’s the new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
The site calls on Americans to honor King by “by pledging to take at least 25 actions during 2011 to make a difference for others and strengthen our communities.”
“Racism and bigotry are no longer tolerated in this country as they once were, and the doors of opportunity stand open to children of every background,” Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine said in a statement. “But we remain an imperfect nation. We must continue to strive to better ourselves and our country by upholding timeless values that Dr. King exemplified: truth, courage, compassion and justice.”
“This holiday should not be one simply of quiet remembrance but of active service to those in our community who need it most, those who Dr. King would have regarded with compassion and treated with charity,” said the committee’s vice chair, Donna Brazile.
The Republican National Committee also released a statement, in which chairman Reince Priebus said King was “a leader who was committed to individual freedom and allowing every citizen the opportunity to achieve their dreams.
“America was founded on the principles of freedom and liberty for all, and the Republican Party will continue working towards ensuring every citizen in this country has an equal chance of living the American dream,” Priebus said.
The NAACP invited Americans to post on its website and finish the sentence, “I have a dream …” King used the phrase in his famous 1963 speech in Washington.
“Whether it’s a small-town girl inspired by Black History Month or a prisoner seeking redemption through rehabilitation, the core of Dr. King’s message transcends boundaries and permeates the spirit of people today just as strongly as it did 48 years ago,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said in a statement. “On this historic day, tell us about your dream so we can remember that America is a nation where hopes and dreams are realized.”
Vice President Joe Biden and numerous Cabinet secretaries and administration officials are also scheduled to participate in service events, the White House said.
King’s son, Martin Luther King III, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a memorial service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network said it planned to mark the day with a breakfast in Washington and a public policy forum in New York.
In a statement Sunday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar noted that a memorial in King’s honor is under construction on the National Mall in Washington.
“When completed later this year, the memorial will serve to remind us of Dr. King’s hope, sense of justice, and quest for equality,” he said.
A march “for jobs and justice” was scheduled to begin at the memorial site Monday and end at the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.