WATCH: Annual commemorative service honoring MLK

- The national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is being observed Monday with celebrations and marches in Atlanta and across the country. 

The annual MLK Day Commemorative Service is taking place at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The event began at 10 a.m.

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Though his voice was silenced nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of nonviolence still resonates and inspires. Decades ago, the famed civil rights leader - also regarded as one of America's greatest orators - recalled driving one night from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his brother A.D. at the wheel. Most cars in the opposite lane failed to dim their lights, and his brother angrily vowed to keep his bright lights on in retaliation.

"And I looked at him right quick and said: 'Oh no, don't do that. There'd be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway,'" King told the congregation at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama during a 1957 sermon.

"Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn't it?" King told the congregation. "That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs."

More than a half-century later, in a world full of contentious politics, one of King's memorable quotes remains relevant. It's from his book "Strength to Love," first published in 1963:

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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