More than 35 years after his assassination, the equality sought by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. still eludes us.

The celebration of Dr. King's birth and legacy today will go unnoticed in much of the country. Some will get the day off from work and school but there seem to be few events marking the civil rights leader's birth in 1929. It's a federal legal holiday but only about a third of businesses surveyed offer their workers a paid holiday today.

We received an e-mail notice from an out-of-town supper club with an MLK Day special: "Ladies Drink Free." That's hardly the way we want to celebrate the accomplishments of a servant who so believed in the accomplishments of the common man.

A national survey found that less than a quarter of those responding said they would do anything to commemorate the national holiday that was adopted in 1986. Sixty percent of the blacks surveyed said they would take part in activities.

Most Americans believe that there has been significant progress in achieving Dr. King's dream of racial equality. Black Americans are more skeptical, according to the poll. Three-quarters of those surveyed say there has been significant progress in ending discrimination.

The gap in annual incomes between whites and blacks has closed some but gains may have stalled, according to the poll.

Some groups have used Dr. King's birthday commemoration as a day of service to the community. That seems like a better plan than a day of shopping.

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