Jonesboro, Ga. — War, poverty, violence and social injustice are dampening Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy as the nation prepares to celebrate the slain civil rights leader's birthday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a church gathering Sunday.
In a passionate speech at Dixon Grove Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Jackson assailed the war in Iraq and insisted the gap between rich and poor in America was widening despite King's message of peace and equality.
"It's easy to admire Dr. King," Jackson told the 650 people at the church. "It's a challenge to follow him."
Jackson, who was standing beneath the motel balcony where King was fatally shot in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, suggested a good birthday present to King would be for Americans to strive more for financial and social equality.
"You can be out of slavery and out of segregation and have the right to vote and starve to death without access to capital and industry," Jackson said.
He added, "You got the birthday. But do you have the legacy? The legacy is to fight for jobs, justice, health care, education and end to war."
Jackson said the war in Iraq was a quagmire of death and destruction with no end in sight.
"We call the home team the insurgents, and we're the home team," Jackson said sarcastically. "Dr. King, what are we doing?"