Thousands of people gathered Sunday to give the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial a proper dedication on the National Mall after its opening in August in Washington, D.C.
The event at the National Mall, cancelled some weeks ago because of the deadly Hurricane Irene, paid tribute to the man famous around the world for his “I have a dream” speech in the 1960s.
“An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied, ” Obama said. “Nearly 50 years after the march onWashington, our work, and Dr King’s work, is not yet complete.”
The president was just six when the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968. “He had faith in us,” Obama said. “And that is why he belongs on this Mall: Because he saw what we might become.”
“An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied,” President Barack Obama told the crowd.
“It was that insistence, that belief that God resides in each of us, for the high to the low, in the oppressor and the oppressed, that convinced him that people and systems could change. It fortified his belief in non-violence. It permitted him to place his faith in a government that had fallen short of its ideals,” the president said.
“It led him to see his charge not only as freeing black Americafrom the shackles of discrimination, but also freeing many Americans from their own prejudices, and freeing Americans of every colour from the depredations of poverty,” Mr. Obama added.
Reminding the crowd of thousands that King had before his assassination in 1968 fought for “economic justice” and marched with workers seeking fair pay, Mr. Obama said that inspiration needed to be drawn from earlier struggles.
“When met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr King refused to accept what he called the ‘is-ness’ of today. He kept pushing towards the ‘ought-ness’ of tomorrow,” said Mr. Obama.
Referring to protests against the wealthy and the corporate culture that have spread from New York around the country and overseas, Mr. Obama said: “Dr. King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonising those who work there.”
Mr. Obama, who sets off today on a three-day “American Jobs” bus tour, went on to admonish the “powerful and the privileged” for dismissing calls for change as attempts to destabilise the country.
King’s monument is not far from where he delivered the speech, during a march onWashingtonon Aug. 28, 1963.
The monument attracted some controversy as it was made and designed in China, but any complaints are likely to be forgotten now that King has taken his place halfway between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and near the Roosevelt Memorial on what Harry Johnson, president of the foundation that undertook the project, called “a visual line of leadership”.
Called the “Stone of Hope”, the statue in the likeness of King shows him gazing sternly out onto the horizon, arms folded. Several civil rights speakers took to the podium, including Rev. Joseph Lowery.
“We recognize here that in the midst of the amazing truths, that an African-American preacher who never held public political office, is recognized here among the fathers of the country. Indeed, he has become a father of the country, for his leadership gave birth to a new America,” Lowery said.
“We are not still fully integrated in this country, there is no question about that,” said Hilary Shelton of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
“At the time Dr King became involved, states could treat African-Americans differently than white Americans and everyone else. Because of his hard work, dedication, and his ultimate sacrifice, that country moved in a much better direction. A lot has been done and so much work has still to be done.” [via The Telegraph, Storyful and CBC]