Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MLK Memorial Dedication: President Obama Remarks

Attendees Speak on the Signficance of the Day

President Obama spoke during Saturday's momentous dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication on the National Mall.

"For this day, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s return to the National Mall.  In this place, he will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it; a black preacher with no official rank or title who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideals, a man who stirred our conscience and thereby helped make our union more perfect.

And Dr. King would be the first to remind us that this memorial is not for him alone.  The movement of which he was a part depended on an entire generation of leaders.  Many are here today, and for their service and their sacrifice, we owe them our everlasting gratitude.  This is a monument to your collective achievement."

The president placed signed copies of his Inauguration speech along with his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech in the Monument's time capsule.

The monument stands thirty feet tall, in a towering life-like display of stone that stirs the soul.
Former US ambassador Andrew Young, civil rights activist, and friend to Dr. King said that Dr. King was only 5'7" tall and at times had a complex speaking to taller men.   "Now here he is standing 30 feet tall on the National Mall."

The CEO of the Martin Luther King Building Project, Harry Johnson was especially delighted on the day, after the original dedication was postponed due to Hurricane Irene this past August.  But on this clear, brilliantly sunny Autumn day, his approval was imminent.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning", said Johnson likening his disappointment with the cancellation to the new opportunity to celebrate the Memorial.

"It has been both humbling and uplifting to participate in this magnificent undertaking", said Johnson.  "My hope is that through this memorial, his [Dr. King's] legacy will continue to touch those who walked with him, those inspired by him, and future generations who will get to know him."

Johnson called the occasion "a triumphant day in history."

Other speakers on the day included Reverend Jessie Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, and the children of  Dr. King: Martin King, III, and daughter Bernice King, who reminded the audience of not only her father's work, but her mother's work as well towards the cause, and most notably for her strength while raising the family during the period of the Civil Rights movement.

"Even as a grieving widow after the assassination of my father, my mother also, with her tired and dedicated efforts, raised a nation in my father's teachings and values", said Dr. Bernice King.  Listen here for more.

James Owens, staffer for a Denver Congressman, was in the crowd of many people we interviewed on the day.  His father was bought to Dr. King's I Have A Dream speech, by Owen's grandparents 48 years ago.

"My father couldn't be here", said Owens, "So, I'm here as our family's representative.
Growing up Owens heard stories from his father about the works of Dr. King and "how he pushed through the adversities that were thrown at him."

"They tell the story of the struggle, and how King rebelled against the established order through his marches, through his sit-ins and how the aggregate of that led to a better country today", Owens said.

Perhaps no one at the Dedication described those 'struggles' more than Congressman John Lewis, friend to Dr. King, and noted civil rights activist.  Lewis, describing Dr. King as man who "liberated a nation", noted what Dr. King and others endured during his attempt to end the horrors of that period.

[Dr. King]  "was arrested, jailed, beaten and constantly harassed. His home bombed", explained Lewis. "He suffered the pain and errors of hate in a grass roots struggle to prove that love is the eternal power to overcome the limitation of hate. Had it had not been for his philosophy of peace and nonviolence that he preached and his insistence of a nonviolent resistance, based on brotherly love, this would be a different nation", said Lewis.  "We would be living in a different place today."

Photo video of the MLK Memorial Dedication.  Photos/CD Brown.

"How could you not be moved by that", asked Owens?  "Given that, it was kind of my duty to be here today to see the culmination of the Memorial."

We asked Owens, who is white, what he sees as the struggles that face the African American community today.

"Clearly, there are economic issues", said Owens, "along with everything else."
Owens cited Black unemployment, double the national average, as a major issue, calling it "completely unacceptable".    He also cited home ownership as another issue facing the African American community.

"Home ownership is lower [for African Americans] than the national average.  So,  it's just this institutionalized injustice that is rather pervasive."

While the country has made strides toward equality for all people, and has the country's first African-American president, Owens remarked that the "institutionalized injustice" is less overt today than in other periods of history, but still prevalent nonetheless.

We have a Black president, and we need to re-elect that Black president in 2012.  We absolutely do."

Mighty Voices at the MLK, Jr. Dedication.

Among the many noted celebrities and entertainers performing on the day were Mary Mary, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Stevie Wonder, and others.  Of all the entertainers, perhaps the most memorable would be the singing of Aretha Franklin's "Precious Lord", a song she stated Dr. King would often request her to sing.

Listen as Aretha Franklin sings Precious Lord at MLK Dedication.

At the MLK, Jr. Memorial Dedication, more voices on the day:

Attendee Wilson Rhoades, 71, tears up recounting the struggles for equality he and his family. Admonishes successful people to "bring others along".


Twelve year-old journalist interviews U.S. presidents.  


MLK, Jr. Memorial Fund donator, Emmanuel Walker talks about donating to the King Memorial building fund, and on being 'so delighted' and "so proud to be here".  Listen.


View our photos from the day.   Hear all voices on the day here.

Heckler, calls President Obama the anti-Christ, gets removed from ceremony.

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