Swaying and clapping to a gospel choir at First AME Church in the West Adams district of Los Angeles on Sunday, Gov. Gray Davis told parishioners to honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by becoming teachers.
"Dr. King was not a teacher, but nobody taught us more about the promise of America," he said.
He added that he can think of no better way to "continue the mission" of the slain civil rights leader than by "giving every child in every school the tools to reach their dream."
The Rev. Cecil L. Murray, who said he has worked with Davis for 25 years, urged his congregation to heed the governor's words, adding: "Sometimes politics are a part of worshiping the Lord."
The Rev. Jeanne Beharry, Murray's assistant, noted that in the past, some in the congregation have said they would prefer that their Sunday services be devoted to the Lord and not to political figures.
But Davis' five-minute speech was applauded by those attending. The governor listed a number of things he has pushed to help children, including summer school programs to help students master basic skills, hiring mentors to help tutor children one on one, making more money available for scholarships, and ensuring that Advanced Placement courses are offered at every high school in the state.
But what's really needed are teachers, he said.
"I know and you know there's no way we can offer as much money as the private sector can [to young college graduates]," he said.
So he wants to "change the conversation about teaching."
To attract teachers, he is offering programs that help public school teachers make down payments on their first houses and pay off their college loans.
In return, he said, he wants young people to consider teaching in the same way that earlier generations looked on military service or the Peace Corps: "This is your way to give back to America, by teaching for at least four years."
Parishioner Juanita Sherman said she "absolutely" believes that schools need more financial support and that teachers need more respect.
In Orange County, King's legacy was remembered another way by the 200 worshipers who crowded inside UC Irvine's Social Science Plaza.
The service was sponsored by Christ Our Redeemer AME Church and featured several speakers, including Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove).
Sanchez called King "an ordinary person [who did] extraordinary things," and challenged listeners to eliminate bigotry and intolerance.