Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream of Service’ Lives On

January 17, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

President Barack Obama paints on a wall as he along with First Lady Michelle Obama as their daughters Malia and Sasha take part in a community service project at Stuart Hobson Middle School in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in Washington, DC, on January 17, 2011.  (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama paints on a wall as he along with First Lady Michelle Obama as their daughters Malia and Sasha take part in a community service project at Stuart Hobson Middle School in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in Washington, DC, on January 17, 2011. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Even more than four decades after his passing, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—a man whose sacrifice, faith, and service inspired and changed the lives of many residents in the United States—lives on in the hearts of millions of Americans.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Jan. 15, 1929, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha participated in a service project on Monday at the Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington DC.

“This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about,” the president said at the school, according to the White House.

As an administration-wide effort to promote volunteer service, the first family took the lead to help paint walls and columns at the middle school’s cafeteria. Obama believes that Dr. King had “a dream of service” that is shared by his administration today.

“Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities,” Obama said. “And that's what this program is all about and that's what these participants are all about.”

Organized by the Greater DC Cares Mentoring Matters Inititative, the project aimed to paint decorations that can promote nutrition and learning. Obama painted a pre-traced logo of an apple on one of the cafeteria pillars, according to newspaper USA Today.

As the nation recovers from the Arizona shooting on Jan. 8, which killed six and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), the president told the volunteers at the middle school that “after a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us and we're thrilled with everybody who is participating.”

As many National Day of Service events span across the country in honor of the prominent African-American civil rights leader, the president and his administration encouraged Americans to participate in the memorial events and community service projects to give “a little something” back to the community.

Dr. King, who is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech and nonviolent methods to end racial segregation and racial discrimination, became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. in 1968.

A memorial in King’s honor on the National Mall in Washington DC will be completed during the latter part of this year.

“The memorial will serve to remind us of Dr. King’s hope, sense of justice, and quest for equality,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a White House post.