Politicians and community leaders attend the City of Chicago's Annual Interfaith Breakfast.
"The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
"We didn't give up. We didn't give in. We didn't become bitter or hostile. We kept the faith," Rep. John Lewis, (D) Georgia, said.
Pre-inauguration video shows President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American chief executive, will use bibles owned by Dr. King and President Abraham Lincoln to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington and the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago.
"There's a connection between me being here and the sacrifices of those in the past," Pres. Obama.
In a predominantly black neighborhood on Chicago's West Side where the unemployment and violent crime rates are among the highest in the country, an African-American president has not made the difference many expected.
"Right now, people have no jobs. Lots of people looking for a job," Muhammad Suleman, West Side resident, said.
"You can't put it all on him because its only so much he can do, how many bills that he can pass that won't get past the House," Michael Benson, West Side resident, said.
In the audience at the King breakfast, the rich, powerful and connected also debated whether America's first black president could do more to correct the economic and social problems of African Americans.
"They're waiting for somebody to do something for them when some of this, a lot of the issues that you just said, we have done to ourselves," Alderman Latasha Thomas, 17 Ward, said.
"Still the agenda is out there, there's more to do. This president is in a better position to serve that agenda than anyone in our history," Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois, said.
"If he deals with those problems that are universal in terms of all Americans, then African-Americans will be included," Timuel Black, civil rights activist and historian, said. Black received the Champion of Freedom Award.