Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders say King's legacy is alive in today's civil rights movement

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley marked Martin Luther King Day on Monday
  • The candidates noted the removal of the Confederate battle flag last year

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN)Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley marked Martin Luther King Day on Monday by telling a largely black audience on the steps of the South Carolina statehouse that King's legacy is alive and well in today's civil rights movement.

A day after the candidates squared off in a fiery debate, they came to Columbia, South Carolina, and largely agreed that while King's impact can still be felt today, work still needs to be done to guarantee racial equality.
"Yes, the challenges we face are many, but so are the quiet heroes working in every corner of America today doing their part to make our country a better place," said the former secretary of state. "I for one receive much inspiration from that simple fact."
    There was symbolism in the event organized by the NAACP: In front of a statehouse that flew the Confederate battle flag until it was taken down last year. All three candidates noted the flag being removed.
    "The flag is down but we are still here because that flag was just one piece of something bigger," Clinton said. "Dr. King died with his work unfinished and it is up to us to see through."
    Sanders argued that King is not just a historic figure, but someone whose moral compass should guide people today. Repeating the phrase "I think if he were here today," Sanders argued that if King were alive today, he would be supporting many of his presidential positions.
    "As we celebrate his life it is terribly important to me that we don't just look at him as a museum figure, somebody in the past," the Vermont senator said. "It is important to me that we look at his vision, to see the America he wanted to see."
    Sanders and O'Malley walked in the NAACP sponsored march before the event, strolling down the streets of Charleston as activists chanted.
    O'Malley, whose birthday is Monday, laughed when asked what he wanted for his birthday, telling reporters that he is hoping for "beat expectations" in Iowa for his birthday.