Entries in Martin Luther Jr. (2)


Obama Says Country Needs to Listen Again to MLK’s Teachings

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Martin Luther King’s teachings are as relevant as ever, in this day when politics in America have become sharply polarized and people appear to be losing faith in our institutions, President Obama said Sunday at the official dedication of the civil rights leader’s monument on the national mall.

“I know we will overcome,” Obama said, standing next to the memorial, which includes a 30-foot statue of King. “I know there are better days ahead. I know this because of the man towering over us. I know this because all he and his generation endured.”

Obama, the nation’s first black president, told a large crowd that the King memorial is a monument to the collective achievement of the civil rights generation. He said that without King’s work, specifically his “I Have a Dream” speech on the national mall, the country might not have had the courage to overcome segregation and Jim Crow laws.

“Because of Dr. King’s moral imagination, barricades began to fall and bigotry began to fade, and the doors of opportunity swung open for an entire generation,” said Obama, who was 7 years old when King was killed.

The president said he hopes his two daughters take away from the monument a faith in what they can accomplish when they are determined and working for a righteous cause.

“This sculpture, massive and iconic as it is, will remind them of Dr. King’s strength, but to see him only as larger than life would do a disservice to what he taught us about ourselves,” he said.

“He would want them to know that he had setbacks, because they will have setbacks,” Obama said. “It was precisely because Dr. King was a man of flesh and blood and not a figure of stone, that he inspires us so. His life, his story tells us that change can come if you don’t give up.”

The president tried to connect King’s message to the present, sharing what he thinks King would tell Americans.

“At this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed to Dr. King’s teachings,” Obama said.

“If he were alive today, I believe that he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there. That the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s unions without vilifying the right to collectively bargain,” he said. “He would want us to know that we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country.”

Obama also reminded the crowd that the progress King helped create did not happen overnight.

“It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King’s marvelous oratory, but it is worth remembering that progress did not come from words alone. Progress was hard,” the president said. “Progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and blast of fire hoses. It was built through stays in jail cells. Nights of bomb threats.”

Before his remarks, Obama and his family walked the walls of the monument along with members of King’s family.

Connecting his own legacy to that of King, Obama placed a signed copy of his presidential inauguration address and a signed copy of his 2008 Democratic National Convention speech in Denver into a time capsule at the memorial. Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2008 on the 40th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


MLK Memorial Still $6 Million Shy of Reaching Goal, But Will Go as Planned

A master stone carver stands next to a panel where he has carved the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in stone in Washington, D.C. The King Memorial is scheduled to be unveiled in late August. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Thousands of visitors will descend upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C. later this month to witness the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial -- a moment that has been 25 years in the making.

Event organizers have had to overcome a number of obstacles such as public criticism, and now one more stands in their way -- a $6 million hurdle.

"It's been an uphill battle all the way, but we are confident that we'll reach our goal," said Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.

The four-acre site, complete with a 28-foot high granite statue of King, stretches from the Tidal Basin to Independence Avenue, and sits between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It also comes with a $120 million price tag. So far, organizers have raised $114 million through private and public donations.

To reach its financial goal, the foundation has employed a number of grassroots strategies, such as children raising donations at school-based events.

Johnson says the foundation has raised $1.4 million in donations from churches and synagogues from all over the country. He added that people who believe in King's message have been donating $5 or $10 through the foundation's website, text messages and mail-in donation forms.

"The event is going to happen," Johnson said. "I'm positive. We like to think about the positive."

Aside from finances, the memorial drew criticism after the foundation asked Chinese artist Lei Yixin to design and construct the site. USA Today reported that the organizer's decision to choose an artist from outside of the U.S. and from a communist country was a point of contention for dissenters.

"Dr. King would have wanted us to pick the person who would do the best job regardless of the color," Johnson said. "He said it in his speeches that we should not judge a person by skin but the content of his character."

The memorial features numerous design elements, including a Stone of Hope, a Mountain of Despair and an inscription wall. Stone of Hope and Mountain of Despair are plays on a line from King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech," during which he said, "We shall hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."

The 14 quotes adorning the inscription wall come from some of King's most famous speeches. Johnson said the four central tenets of King -- love, hope, justice and democracy -- were the deciding factors on which quotes made the wall, and the positive quotes will ensure the "living memorial will live on to eternity."

"This will mean something to all people in general regardless of their color," he said. "No gender or race is mentioned in the quotes."

The commemorative site will be the first on the National Mall to honor a person who was not a president or a soldier. This will also be the first time a person of color will be honored with a statue at the D.C. site.

The unveiling event scheduled for Aug. 28 will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The event is expected to feature musical performances by a number of entertainers, including singer Smokey Robinson.

Some Interesting Facts About the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial:

The address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue. 1964 is the year President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

King's memorial statue is located near the cherry trees on the National Mall, which coincidentally bloom each year around the week King was assassinated.

The Aug. 28 dedication is exactly three years to the day of President Barack Obama's acceptance of the Democratic nomination. The White House announced on Aug. 4 that the president will speak at the unveiling. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is also scheduled to attend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio