BAKER — Speakers at Martin Luther King Day celebration Monday said Americans interested in honoring the slain civil rights leader’s legacy should focus on education.

Baker Mayor Harold Rideau said an education helped him have an easier and more successful life than his parents, who struggled to provide for his family. He said educational opportunities should enable his children to do even better.

The quality of life has improved over the years because of education, “but we’ve let things go recently,” Rideau said. “It’s important for our kids to understand the value of an education.”

James Kador, the principal speaker, traced the history of King’s efforts to promote social change, from the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, to the garbage workers strike in Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated in 1968.

“The time is always right to do what’s right,” Kador said, referring to a quotation from King’s 1964 speech at Oberlin College in Ohio.

“Why can’t we wait?” Kador asked, urging the audience of about 75 people to “hone in on education.”

King would not be happy to see the violence and school dropouts among today’s urban young people, said Kador, an assistant principal of Baker High School.

“Equality in education produced great successes in the 1970s and ’80s,” Kador said, but he then ticked off a long list of issues he said have arisen to diminish continued progress.

To cut crime, Americans must help young people finish high school and continue their education, he said.

“It’s time for all of us to stand up and say, ‘I’m tired of the violence.’ The time is always right to do what is right,” Kador said.