- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

President Bush joined icons of the civil rights movement in paying tribute yesterday to Martin Luther King at the groundbreaking for his memorial on the Mall.

The King memorial will be the first for a civilian and black leader among the monuments marking presidents and the nation’s wars on the Mall. The memorial, which will sit on a bank of the Tidal Basin, is expected to be completed in 2008.

“I’m proud that this piece of the nation’s capital is a monument to this great man,” Mr. Bush said during the three-hour ceremony that drew about 5,000 people. “This is a memorial to the man who redeemed the promises of America that Jefferson and Lincoln made.”

Former President Bill Clinton, who signed legislation in 1996 authorizing the memorial, spoke of King’s commitment to nonviolence and social justice causes such as ending poverty, saying those goals have not yet been achieved.

“If he were here, he would remind us that the time to do right remains,” Mr. Clinton told the gathering.

At the end of the ceremony, civil rights leaders, celebrities and political leaders took shovels and dug dirt from the shore of the Tidal Basin. The memorial will sit on a 4-acre plot that’s on line between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, where King gave his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963.

About $30.6 million of the estimated $100 million still needsto be raised for the project, said Harry E. Johnson Sr., president of the Washington D.C. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

As of yesterday, about $69.4 million had been raised.

The crescent-shaped monument will feature sculptures called “The Mountain of Despair,” and a 28-foot-high “Stone of Hope” with King’s image chiseled near the top.

Across the street from the site is a plaque that states King “brought about changes through the principles of non—violence and equality for all.”

Three of King’s children, who attended yesterday’s ceremony, spoke endearingly of their father.

Yolanda Denise King said she learned from her father, “Where love abides, you will also find peace.”

Martin Luther King III said, “Nonviolence is not the opposite of violence. The opposite of violence is peace.”

The Rev. Bernice Albertine King, an evangelist, said, “He ended up to be a great pastor to a nation, to the world.”

Other speakers included Andrew Young, former ambassador to the United Nations; Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat; Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat; talk show host Oprah Winfrey; author and poet Maya Angelou; the Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader; and Jack Kemp, former Republican congressman from upstate New York.

A gospel choir sang, and Miss Angelou read poetry. Children read essays they had written about King.

Miss Winfrey told the crowd she began learning from King’s experiences while she was in grade school.

“We are here today to thank him and to repay him,” she said. “As a result, we must make this a nation of brotherhood. America’s to be a legend to nations. … Martin Luther King unleashed the passion of hope. … Because he was the seed, I am the blossom.”

Mr. Obama, who has said he is considering a presidential run in 2008, said he can imagine bringing his two young children to the memorial and passing through the mountain of despair.

“He never did live to see the promised land from that mountaintop,” Mr. Obama said. “But he pointed the way for us.”

Born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, King spent his life campaigning for peace, equality, brotherhood and integration. He received the Nobel Peace Prize when he was 35.

On April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., he was assassinated by James Earl Ray, who later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

“He was assassinated because he dared to change the system,” said Dorothy I. Height, chairwoman and president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women. “This [monument] is for all of us, for all of the world.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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