It's been nearly 41 years since his assassination, but Monday Grand Valley residents say the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lives on.
Several people tell 11 News says Martin Luther King Day takes on new meaning, as Americans celebrate the man who spent his life fighting for equality less than 24 hours before our nation's first black President is sworn in.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
"It's a part of my history, my whole family," said Analisa Watkins, a black student at Mesa State College. "He's a person that was of pivotal influence on who we are today."
Sunday, Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, kicking off the countdown to his inauguration. Some Grand Valley residents say it's because of civil rights leaders like Dr. King that the President-Elect got to do just that.
"It's like this overwhelming emotion of feeling like we've come so far," said Grand Junction resident Trena Anastasia.
While many say tonight is about celebrating Dr. King's work and bringing people together, they admit it's hard to separate the feelings on MLK Day from the emotions they will feel Tuesday.
"It just makes it much more special having [Obama] in this position," said Kennilyn Wright, Manager of Student Diversity at Mesa State.
"I think today being so close to the day of inauguration makes tomorrow even more huge," said Anastasia.
"I do think it allows all to pay more attention to it and celebrate it more than we generally would," said Kristine, a Mesa State student.
Some say they hope as people listen to and reflect upon the struggles during the Civil Rights Movement, Americans will gain a greater appreciation for the historical significance of the inauguration.
"It's really going to benefit our country," said Alena, a Mesa State student. "It shows that maybe Martin Luther King's dream has come true. We've all come together."
"We've changed," said Keeley, a Mesa State student. "It's not how it was back when Martin Luther King was alive. It's totally different."
They say they hope Dr. King's message continues well beyond Obama's presidency.
"I don't think Martin Luther King's dream was necessarily for a black president, though I'm sure he would have liked that," said Watkins. "I think his dream is for equality, for love and peace for everyone."
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