Local ceremonies marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day drew about 400 people to KU's Lied Center.
America is a "sick society" that desperately needs healing, the keynote speaker at local Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances said Monday.
"We're still sick ... because we see violence everywhere we look," said the speaker, James Boyer, professor of ethics at Kansas State University and an ordained minister. "Life in America now is as cheap as the price of a gun."
Boyer made the remarks to about 400 people in Kansas University's Lied Center during the city's 10th-annual program honoring the slain civil-rights leader.
The two-hour program featured several songs by the Ecumenical Fellowship Choir and prayers from various ministers.
Boyer, in a rousing sermon, said Martin Luther King Jr. Day is "not a day for picnics and dances. It's a day for sharing."
"Martin gave us a gift of passion for justice," he said. "We are now called to the national task of continuing that dream. This is not a frivolous holiday."
For society to improve, he said, people should start solving problems within their own families and look to God.
"Never before have we seen the kind of violence we've seen today," he said. "Only God can save us.
"You can't have a healthy community unless you have a healthy family," he said. "Violence has no place in a family.
"If you're a child of God ... you have a part to play," he said. "No matter what happens, keep your hand in God's hand."
Throughout the speech, several people in the audience shouted "Amen!" and other affirmations.
Before Boyer spoke, U.S. Rep. Jan Meyers, R-Kan., whose district includes Lawrence, told the crowd that Martin Luther King Jr. "was not a tall man, physically, but he was a giant for human rights."
She said King was "one of America's greatest heroes and humanitarians."
Mrs. Meyers also said the notion of change that has permeated recent political campaigns "would've suited Dr. King just fine."
Monday's events were organized by Ecumenical Fellowship Inc. Churches and sponsored by KU, Haskell Indian Nations University, city of Lawrence, Kansas Humanities Council, KU's Black Student Union and Douglas County.