BY LAUREL BOWMAN – Delayed by Hurricane Irene in August, the day finally came. U.S. President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, dedicated a $120 million statue and memorial park Sunday to the slain civil rights leader who helped pave the way for him and many others in the United States.
Renowned civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. galvanized the U.S. civil rights movement with his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, his non-violent message calling for an end to racial segregation.
Almost half a century later, thousands convened on Washington’s National Mall to give his new memorial a proper dedication.
Joyce Hayward flew from the island of Bermuda to be here. “I wanted to be part of the celebration of the person who helped me be free,” she said.
For Jeanine Hill, it was a long bus ride from Ohio. “This is a special day because African Americans, we need something like this, especially for an election year … this is a very important endeavor, and I am proud very proud to be a part of history,” she said.
Revered civil-rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson greeted reporters before his formal remarks, saying King’s fight must go on. “We have the obligation to not just glow in this but to keep raising the challenging and disturbing moral questions of economic justice and fairness,” he said.
Stevie Wonder added to the chorus with his song, and members of King’s family orated, including Reverend King’s sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. “I witnessed a baby become a great hero to humanity, who provides hope and inspiration for freedom-loving people everywhere,” she said.
And designer Tommy Hilfiger, who supplied an ocean of white baseball caps to the crowd, was swarmed by journalists before speaking.
But the day’s big speaker was no doubt U.S. President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, who was just six-years old when King was assassinated. “Because of that hopeful vision because of Dr. King’s moral imagination, barricades began to fall and bigotry began to fade. New doors of opportunity swung open for an entire generation. Yes laws changed, but hearts and minds changed as well,” he said.
The 10-meter-tall statue of Dr. King reminds the world of his fight for equality.
And his ultimate belief that great dreams can come true.