MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the monumental achievements of President Barack Obama are bridging generations on MLK Day. The history making day is helping young and old come together to learn from the past and accelerate into the future. The two men continue to shape and inspire generations.
19-year-old Solomon Branigan was hanging on every word the President said. Watching the President take his oath of office Branigan says, "It kind of made me feel like I was up there." He says the President's speech four years ago inspired him to do better, his 2013 speech was even more impactful on the high school senior, "I like the speech and him saying we've got to bond together, saying all of us have to do something, one person can't do it by themselves."
Every year on MLK Day, Dr. King is celebrated at Monumental Baptist Church in South Memphis. This year the President's inauguration was broadcast on two larger screens during the celebration. The young faces were few and far between. Most of the people remember Dr. King in Memphis, and remember the struggle they all went through together.
Reverend Withers Anthony, Jr. says, "We were striving to get our voices heard and faces seen and not just be in the background, we wanted to be known as a man and MLK came and helped us accomplish those goals."
U.J. Toney is 64 years old, he says, "I'm from a cotton plantation in northern Mississippi, and I know what that feels like and I didn't like it. These young people, they don't have that experience. They haven't lived that, they have no point of reference and what we have to do is teach them."
There's a connection between the "dream" Dr. King famously spoke about and the re-election of President Obama. Civil Rights activist Dr. LaSimba Gray says if you work hard and apply yourself, you can achieve whatever you want to. He calls the President the perfect example, "We have to teach our young people to stop using excuses to do nothing." He says, "Take every opportunity you have in life to improve yourself and then to give back to society. Stop using excuses. Raised by a single mom? No excuse. I'm black or Hispanic? No excuse. I'm poor? No excuse. President Obama had to overcome all of those to be where he is today."
Even though Branigan never lived through the struggles of his elders, it doesn't mean the significance of this day and this President is lost on him. He says, "It made me just want to do better."
Branigan plans to attend college, he is graduating from Booker T. Washington High School this spring. It was the same high school Obama spoke at in May 2011. Branigan was Color Guard for that speech.