King's work affected his life, Yapias said. "What it means to me is that Dr. King, in the Civil Rights Movement, stood for equality and opportunity, and that opened doors for all of us — black, Hispanic, Native American…."
Because of King and the movement he led, "Every student has the opportunity to succeed," he said.
Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill, who also came to the luncheon, moved with his family from India to the United States when he was 10. King stands as a symbol throughout the world of the opportunity and equality that America offers, Gill said.
"There is a sense of opportunity here that is not just a promise," he said. "I still remember when my father took me aside and said, 'In this country anything is possible, if you work for it.'"
Many of his fellow Indians also feel a connection to King because of the influence Mohandas Gandhi had on King's approach to civil disobedience, Gill said.
Other events Monday included the University of Utah's fourth annual "marade" — a march-parade, in which hundreds of people holding signs, pushing strollers and walking dogs braved the wintery weather to mark the day.
Following a rally at East High School, the crowd headed up 1300 East toward Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus. The rally featured keynote speaker, the Reverend France Davis, who also marched with King. Davis is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and a member of the state Board of Regents.
"The rally is a rousing event that kind of just pours out into the street," university organizer Colleen Cotas said. "We try to have fun with it."
Others marked Monday as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.
The day's lesser-known federal designation was signed into law in 1994 and inspires many service projects, including one featuring Westminister students.
The students gathered at Salt Lake City's Sprague Library to make collection boxes for the Utah Food Bank. Others helped launch the volunteer program, Service in the City by preparing food packages for the elderly in need at the Salt Lake City food bank. Among other events throughout the valley, an American Red Cross Blood Drive was held at Murray High School Monday afternoon.
"I believe it is a day of celebration for all our human rights," Yapias said. "It embraces all our cultures and communities."
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