Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Colin L. Powell helped deliver a $1 million gift Monday for the planned Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and called on all Americans to donate to the national Mall project.

The foundation building the memorial has raised $102 million of the $120 million needed to complete the project planned for the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.

Mr. Powell delivered a $1 million check on behalf of UnitedHealth Group Inc. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based company has paid him in the past to be a speaker at some of its functions. Mr. Powell said he has been involved with memorials in Washington, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because “it was my war.”

Since leaving public office in 2005 as a secretary of state under President Bush, Mr. Powell has helped raise money for the memorial to the slain civil rights leader. A Powell spokeswoman said Mr. Powell personally donated $10,000 last year.

“MLK is a little different,” Mr. Powell said. “It’s not a president, it’s not a war. It’s a man who fought a war of peace and fought the second civil war. He changed America in a very significant way.”

The memorial’s design, with a towering statue of King and quotes from his famous speeches, will not be “something that you just go and stand and look up at it,” Mr. Powell said. Visitors will instead “walk in the memorial … and you’re seeing the words of King.”

The economic crisis will make raising money for such projects more daunting, Mr. Powell said. “But the American economy will come back.”

UnitedHealth Executive Vice President Anthony Welters said King’s values of equality and social change “are central to improving health care for the people of this country.”

Mr. Powell, a Republican and the first black secretary of state, endorsed Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the presidential race. The King memorial, he said, will take on new meaning during Mr. Obama’s presidency “for all Americans, not just African-Americans .

“Just look at the turnout expected for the inauguration,” Mr. Powell said.

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