History Buzz January 16, 2012: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Past & Present at the White House

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

President Obama and Dr. King

Source: WH, 1-16-12

President Obama visits MLK memorial at night

President Barack Obama tours the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

It’s been 29 years since President Reagan signed the law to create a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year for the first time, however, those who wish to honor Dr. King on the holiday will be able gather in celebration at his memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Seven years ago, then-Senator Obama spoke at the groundbreaking for the memorial.

And back in October, the President spoke at its dedication, where he described the way that Dr. King continues to inspire new generations to work to fulfill his legacy:

He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.

And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us. And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become. That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American — because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead. This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.

From the Archives: Dr. Martin Luther King at the White House

Source: WH, 1-16-12

Martin Luther King, Jr. leaves the West Wing after meeting with  President Johnson

Martin Luther King, Jr. leaves the West Wing after meeting with President Johnson. August 5, 1965. Abbie Rowe, NPS: National Archive and Records Administration. (by Abbie Rowe, NPS: National Archive and Records Administration)

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Civil Rights leaders in the  Oval Office

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer in the Oval Office. January 18, 1964. . (by Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

To mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the White House Historical Association has searched their archives and created a slideshow of historic images that show the impact the civil rights leader has had on several administrations. Dr King’s interactions with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson leading up to the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and the 1968 Civil Rights Act are well documented, but his first visit to the White House was actually in 1958, when he and other prominent civil rights leaders met with President Dwight Eisenhower. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s Life and Legacy features images of Dr. King himself at the White House and also includes photos of President Reagan signing the King Holiday Bill in 1983 with Coretta Scott King at his side, and President Obama and his family at the national memorial that was dedicated just last year.

See the slideshow on Flickr

From the Archives: President Reagan Designates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a Federal Holiday

Source: WH, 1-13-12

Reagan signs MLK Day legislation

President Ronald Reagan signs legislation to create a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Rose Garden of the White House on November 2, 1983. (by National Archives)

Only three people have a national holiday observed in their honor: Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday of January each year, marks the birthday of the civil rights leader and nonviolent activist. The call for a national holiday to honor Dr. King’s legacy began soon after his assassination in 1968—U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced legislation to establish the holiday just four days after Dr. King was killed, but Congress took no action on the bill.

In the years that followed, millions of people signed petitions in support of the holiday. Coretta Scott King testified before Congress multiple times, calling for a federally recognized day to honor the life and work of her late husband. In 1980, Stevie Wonder released a song, “Happy Birthday,” which became both a hit and a rallying cry for supporters of the holiday, and civil rights marches in Washington in 1982 and 1983 only served to amplify their mission.

A bill to establish the holiday successfully passed through both houses of Congress in 1983, and President Reagan signed it into law on November 20 of that year. The first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated in 1986.

Many Americans now honor Dr. King’s legacy by participating in a community service event in their own neighborhood andhis vision of service and volunteering is more critical than ever during this economic recovery. President Obama has called on the nation to participate in a service event in their own community this Monday, January 16, 2012.

The First and Second Families, numerous members of the President’s cabinet, and thousands of other Americans across the country have committed to serve, and you can, too. Visit MLKDay.gov to find a service opportunity in your neighborhood and learn more about the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

White House Recap October 15-21, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Barack Obama’s Bus Tour to NC & VA Supporting the American Jobs Act — Obama Addresses Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication & Announces End of Iraq War & Return of All Troops

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: OCTOBER 15-21, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Bringing Home the Troops

Source: WH, 10-21-11

This week, the President traveled to Detroit with the President of South Korea, dedicated the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, embarked on a three day American Jobs Act bus tour, bestowed the Presidential Citizens Medal.

West Wing Week
Download Video: mp4 (202MB)

Home for the Holidays Friday afternoon the President announced that the remaining  troops in Iraq will be officially coming back home, thus ending the war in Iraq. “Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq—tens of thousands of them—will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq—with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

Road Trip President Obama embarked on a three day bus tour to spread the word about the American Jobs Act. Starting the journey in Asheville, NC and ending in North Chesterfield, VA, he also made stops in Millers Creek, NC, Jamestown, NC, Emporia, VA and Hampton, VA.The President visited schools, an airport, a military base, and a fire station along the way all of which will benefit from the American Jobs Act. On the last day of the tour, the First Lady joined the President at Joint Base Langley-Eustis announcing a commitment from the private sector to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses. The jobs bill would put Americans back to work, upgrade our country’s infrastructure, and keep teachers and emergency responders on the job.

Citizens Award Tuesday in the East Room, the President honored 13 Americans with the Citizens Medal, one of the highest honors a civilian can receive. The award is given to Americans who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” The recipients chosen to receive this year’s medal were nominated by the public, and then carefully selected by the White House. Click here to learn more about the recipients and to watch a video showing their reactions to the news that they’d been chosen.

“We Will Overcome” Tens of thousands came to the National Mall Sunday for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication. President Obama, joined by the First Family, toured the memorial and then spoke at the dedication ceremony in honor of Dr. King’s work. During his speech, President Obama reminded us that the progress towards Dr. King’s vision has not come easily and there is still more to do to expand opportunity and make our nation more just:“We can’t be discouraged by what is.  We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.”

MLB support U.S. Veterans As a part of their Joining Forces Initiative, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, for Game One of the World Series to meet with military families and to recognize Major League Baseball’s support of those who serve and their families. Earlier that day, the First Lady announced at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia a commitment from the private sector to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses.

Cutting Waste As a part of the Campaign to Cut Waste, the White House recently updated the Excess Property map that uses new data to pinpoint the location and status of federal properties that agencies have targeted for closure and consolidation. Ending this waste and improving the management of the government’s real estate will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Full Text October 16, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication — Transcript

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama joined the First Lady, Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Salazar of the Interior to honor Martin Luther King Jr. during the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 10/16/11

President Obama at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication: “We Will Overcome”

Source: WH, 10-16-11
President Obama and the First Family tour the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson tour the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial before the dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, nearly half a century after Martin Luther King, Jr. led the historic March on Washington for equality, tens of thousands came to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication. The memorial to Dr. King has been open since August, but the dedication was delayed due to Hurricane Irene. As President Obama said, though delayed, “this is a day that would not be denied.”

President Obama, joined by the First Family, toured the memorial and then spoke at the dedication ceremony in honor of Dr. King’s work to make his dream a reality for all. During his speech, President Obama reminded us that the progress towards Dr. King’s vision has not come easily and there is still more to do to expand opportunity and make our nation more just:

Our work is not done.  And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles.  First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick.  Change has never been simple, or without controversy.  Change depends on persistence.  Change requires determination.  It took a full decade before the moral guidance of Brown v. Board of Education was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but those 10 long years did not lead Dr. King to give up.  He kept on pushing, he kept on speaking, he kept on marching until change finally came.

And then when, even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn’t say those laws were a failure; he didn’t say this is too hard; he didn’t say, let’s settle for what we got and go home.  Instead he said, let’s take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let’s fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work.  In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today.  He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow.

And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child — not just some, but every child — gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is.  We can’t be discouraged by what is.  We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.

The President addressed some of the issues that continue to challenge our country and how Dr. King’s “constant insistence on the oneness of man” encourages us to see through each other’s eyes as we face disagreement:

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain.  He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country — with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another.  He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.

Guests at the dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

Guests listen as President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Looking towards the future, President Obama spoke to the inspiration Dr. King instills in us to this day to continue his legacy:

He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.

And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us.  And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become.  That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American — because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth.  And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead.  This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.

That is the conviction we must carry now in our hearts.  As tough as times may be, I know we will overcome.  I know there are better days ahead.  I know this because of the man towering over us.  I know this because all he and his generation endured — we are here today in a country that dedicated a monument to that legacy.

And so with our eyes on the horizon and our faith squarely placed in one another, let us keep striving; let us keep struggling; let us keep climbing toward that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair, and more just, and more equal for every single child of God.

Watch the video of President Obama’s remarks:

Download Video: mp4 (194MB) | mp3 (19MB)

Rep. John Lewis: The King Memorial A Symbol of the Best in America

Source: WH, 10-16-11

Rep John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., attends the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011. Colin Powell, left, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are also pictured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On August 28, 1963, the day of the March on Washington, all of the platform speakers were invited to the White House to meet with President John F. Kennedy.  A few months earlier I had made my very first trip to the White House. I was only 23-years-old and also the brand-new chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.  It was amazing.  A week into my new job I was headed to the White House to meet President Kennedy.

I was with five other great men, including Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, and Whitney Young, known as the Big Six leaders of the movement.  There were many women who were instrumental to our plans to march and many heroines of the movement, including Coretta Scott King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Ella Baker and Diane Nash.  However, as was customary in those times, none of them were in the room that day.  We told President Kennedy the people could not wait any longer.  We were planning to call on thousands to march on Washington.

President Kennedy was visibly concerned.  He was sitting in the Oval Office in his rocking chair, and he began to rock a little more briskly.  He was concerned about violence.  He wanted to cool down rising tensions, but A. Philip Randolph, the founder of the Brotherhood of Pullman Car Porters, the dean of our movement, and the visionary behind the march assured him this would be a lawful, peaceful, non-violent march.  I will never forget.  Randolph told him, we could not wait any longer.  “Mr. President, he said, “if we cool down any more we will be in a deep freeze.”

After the largest march Washington had ever seen, the President stood in the door of his office relaxed and beaming.  He shook each hand and said, “You did a good job.  You did a good job.”  But when he got to Martin Luther King Jr. he said, “And you had a dream.”

King’s aspirations for this nation were “deeply rooted in the American dream.”  And it is because of his unwavering commitment to the cause of justice, the principles of peace and non-violent activism, because of his insistence on the equal dignity of all humanity that he has found his place on the National Mall.  Martin Luther King Jr. represents the very best in America.  It was his moral voice that helped this nation turn the corner and lay down the burden of a grave injustice.

Thus it is fitting and so appropriate that we honor Martin Luther King Jr. in what I like to call “the frontyard of America”.  He must be looked upon as one of the founders of the New America.  He must be looked upon as one of the founders of a nation more prepared to meet its highest destiny.  And that is why the image of this humble Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, a man who was never elected to any public office, can be seen today standing on the National Mall between the monuments to two great presidents—Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.

We have come a great distance as a nation and as a people, but we still have a great distance to go before we create what Dr. King called the Beloved Community.  I define it as a society based on simple justice that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.  The struggle to build this kind of community does not last for one day, one week, or one year, it is the struggle of a lifetime.  Each of us must continue to do our part to help make this vision a reality.

President Obama is doing all he can to help build this sense of community.  In the bluster of media hype and political rhetoric, the substantive work President Obama has done to turn our economy around, to assist everyday Americans during this time of financial crisis, and to put people back to work has not gotten enough attention.  In his humility this President has not trumpeted his success.   He has kept his eyes focused on the challenges at hand, trying to use his power to do what he believes is in the best interest of the American people.

Perhaps you remember his demand that we expand and extend unemployment insurance to people who had been laid off.  Maybe you heard about his loan modification programs which have offered relief to more than $2 million Americans who would have lost their homes.  He added $7.6 billion to the Hardest Hit Fund to help homeowners in the most dire straits, and $7 billion for a program to stabilize neighborhoods blighted by the foreclosure crisis.  These resources have been invaluable to my district in Atlanta, one of the hardest hit in the country.  Recently, the White House released a report, called Creating Pathways to Opportunity, that highlights the many initiatives this president has fought hard to execute which strengthen the economy while protecting the most vulnerable Americans.

With the help of a Democratic Congress, college students now have access to affordable healthcare until they are 26.  The President doubled their Pell Grant funding and has enacted 17 tax cuts to free small businesses to be the engine of growth they had always been. President Obama is trying to do his part to help build a Beloved Community.  We have a great President in our midst who is trying to do the kind of good that will last.  And if each of us will do our part to respect human dignity, to speak up and speak out non-violently for the cause of justice then we can all help build the Beloved Community, a nation and a world society at peace with itself.

Congressman John Lewis is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district and recipient of the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication

The National Mall
Washington, D.C.

11:51 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.

An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied.

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.  (Applause.)

Some giants of the civil rights movement –- like Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height, Benjamin Hooks, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth –- they’ve been taken from us these past few years.  This monument attests to their strength and their courage, and while we miss them dearly, we know they rest in a better place.

And finally, there are the multitudes of men and women whose names never appear in the history books –- those who marched and those who sang, those who sat in and those who stood firm, those who organized and those who mobilized –- all those men and women who through countless acts of quiet heroism helped bring about changes few thought were even possible. “By the thousands,” said Dr. King, “faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black and white…have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”  To those men and women, to those foot soldiers for justice, know that this monument is yours, as well.

Nearly half a century has passed since that historic March on Washington, a day when thousands upon thousands gathered for jobs and for freedom.  That is what our schoolchildren remember best when they think of Dr. King -– his booming voice across this Mall, calling on America to make freedom a reality for all of God’s children, prophesizing of a day when the jangling discord of our nation would be transformed into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

It is right that we honor that march, that we lift up Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech –- for without that shining moment, without Dr. King’s glorious words, we might not have had the courage to come as far as we have.  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.

Look at the faces here around you, and you see an America that is more fair and more free and more just than the one Dr. King addressed that day.  We are right to savor that slow but certain progress -– progress that’s expressed itself in a million ways, large and small, across this nation every single day, as people of all colors and creeds live together, and work together, and fight alongside one another, and learn together, and build together, and love one another.

So it is right for us to celebrate today Dr. King’s dream and his vision of unity.  And yet it is also important on this day to remind ourselves that such progress did not come easily; that Dr. King’s faith was hard-won; that it sprung out of a harsh reality and some bitter disappointments.

It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King’s marvelous oratory, but it is worth remembering that progress did not come from words alone.  Progress was hard.  Progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses.  It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats.  For every victory during the height of the civil rights movement, there were setbacks and there were defeats.

We forget now, but during his life, Dr. King wasn’t always considered a unifying figure.  Even after rising to prominence, even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was vilified by many, denounced as a rabble rouser and an agitator, a communist and a radical.  He was even attacked by his own people, by those who felt he was going too fast or those who felt he was going too slow; by those who felt he shouldn’t meddle in issues like the Vietnam War or the rights of union workers.  We know from his own testimony the doubts and the pain this caused him, and that the controversy that would swirl around his actions would last until the fateful day he died.

I raise all this because nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work, Dr. King’s work, is not yet complete.  We gather here at a moment of great challenge and great change.  In the first decade of this new century, we have been tested by war and by tragedy; by an economic crisis and its aftermath that has left millions out of work, and poverty on the rise, and millions more just struggling to get by.  Indeed, even before this crisis struck, we had endured a decade of rising inequality and stagnant wages.  In too many troubled neighborhoods across the country, the conditions of our poorest citizens appear little changed from what existed 50 years ago -– neighborhoods with underfunded schools and broken-down slums, inadequate health care, constant violence, neighborhoods in which too many young people grow up with little hope and few prospects for the future.

Our work is not done.  And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles.  First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick.  Change has never been simple, or without controversy.  Change depends on persistence.  Change requires determination.  It took a full decade before the moral guidance of Brown v. Board of Education was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but those 10 long years did not lead Dr. King to give up.  He kept on pushing, he kept on speaking, he kept on marching until change finally came.  (Applause.)

And then when, even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn’t say those laws were a failure; he didn’t say this is too hard; he didn’t say, let’s settle for what we got and go home.  Instead he said, let’s take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let’s fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work.  In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today.  He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow.

And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child — not just some, but every child — gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is.  (Applause.)  We can’t be discouraged by what is.  We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.

And just as we draw strength from Dr. King’s struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”  It was that insistence, rooted in his Christian faith, that led him to tell a group of angry young protesters, “I love you as I love my own children,” even as one threw a rock that glanced off his neck.

It was that insistence, that belief that God resides in each of us, from 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.  It led him to see his charge not only as freeing black America from the shackles of discrimination, but also freeing many Americans from their own prejudices, and freeing Americans of every color from the depredations of poverty.

And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings.  He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain.  He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships.  (Applause.)

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.  As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.”  They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing.  Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.

But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain.  He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country — (applause) — with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another.  He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.

In the end, that’s what I hope my daughters take away from this monument.  I want them to come away from here with a faith in what they can accomplish when they are determined and working for a righteous cause.  I want them to come away from here with a faith in other people and a faith in a benevolent God.  This sculpture, massive and iconic as it is, will remind them of Dr. King’s strength, but to see him only as larger than life would do a disservice to what he taught us about ourselves.  He would want them to know that he had setbacks, because they will have setbacks.  He would want them to know that he had doubts, because they will have doubts.  He would want them to know that he was flawed, because all of us have flaws.

It is precisely because Dr. King was a man of flesh and blood and not a figure of stone that he inspires us so.  His life, his story, tells us that change can come if you don’t give up.  He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.

And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us.  And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become.  That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American — because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth.  And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead.  This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.

That is the conviction we must carry now in our hearts.  (Applause.)  As tough as times may be, I know we will overcome.  I know there are better days ahead.  I know this because of the man towering over us.  I know this because all he and his generation endured — we are here today in a country that dedicated a monument to that legacy.

And so with our eyes on the horizon and our faith squarely placed in one another, let us keep striving; let us keep struggling; let us keep climbing toward that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair, and more just, and more equal for every single child of God.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
12:12 P.M. EDT

History Headlines August 25, 2011: Hurricane Irene Postpones Sunday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS: HURRICANE IRENE POSTPONES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’S MEMORIAL DEDICATION

King memorial dedication postponed: The 30-foot granite statue has been cleaned. Dignitaries from around the world are in town. And the stage and 30,000 folding chairs are in place.
But it has all been in vain, as the foundation building the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial announced Thursday that the dedication Sunday has been postponed. Officials seemed to have little choice with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the region….. – WaPo, 8-25-11

“I’m really disappointed and hurt, really. But the memorial is going to be there forever…. “It is still a success because we have a memorial. We have worked so many years for this memorial, and that is a success within itself. To say that Dr. King is now on the Mall between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorial[s], you can’t ask for anything better than that. We just didn’t have a dedication; hopefully everyone will understand.” — Harry E. Johnson Sr., chief executive of the MLK, Jr. memorial foundation

“Destination DC shares the disappointment expressed today by the Washington DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to delay the official dedication of this new national treasure in the nation’s capital, but applauds the decision made in the interest of public safety for the thousands of visitors who had planned to travel to DC this weekend. The dedication that will be rescheduled in the next couple of months will be a further opportunity to properly honor Dr. King’s legacy and welcome the new memorial to the National Mall. The silver lining in the storm is that this memorial has a home here and will be a permanent place of reflection for visitors from around the world. After this weekend’s storms pass, we hope that people from near and far will make their way to DC to experience this powerful memorial.” — Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC

  • Dedication of King Memorial postponed by Hurricane Irene: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication has been postponed due to Hurricane Irene’s impending assault on the East Coast, NBC News has learned.
    The dedication ceremony’s organizers — the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation — announced its decision on Thursday night, citing the interest of public safety.
    If weather permits, the memorial will be open on Friday and Saturday, though the official dedication will be moved to September or October.
    As many as 300,000 people had been expected to flock to the National Mall on Sunday to watch the dedication of a memorial in the civil rights leader’s honor….. – MSNBC, 8-24-11
  • Irene scuttles Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication: The head of the foundation that organized Sunday’s planned dedication ceremony on Washington’s National Mall for a memorial to the late Martin Luther King Jr. announced Thursday night that the official dedication has been postponed.
    As Hurricane Irene continued to barrel toward the Washington area, Harry Johnson, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, said safety prompted the decision. He said he consulted with the National Park Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency…. – USA Today, 8-25-11
  • BET to dedicate Sunday’s programming to MLK: BET still plans to dedicate Sunday’s programming to Martin Luther King, Jr., even though his memorial won’t be unveiled that day due to Hurricane Irene…. – WSJ, 8-25-11
  • MLK memorial postponement costs D.C. tourist dollars: Sunday’s star-studded dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. was canceled late Thursday due to the anticipated presence of rain and winds from Hurricane Irene.
    The event, due to be attended by President Obama, Jesse Jackson and hundreds of other dignitaries, has been postponed till fall.
    Meanwhile, the District of Columbia stands to lose millions in revenue from visitors due to pack its hotels and restaurants…. – USA Today, 8-25-11

History Buzz August 22, 2011: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial Opens in Washington’s National Mall

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial will officially be dedicated on Sunday. More Photos »

IN FOCUS: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’S MEMORIAL OPENS IN WASHINGTON’S NATIONAL MALL

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

“Why you don’t see a lot of race … is because we hope that in the next 100 years, we hope that in the next 50 or 20 years, that won’t be important. It’s important that you have food in your belly, that you have clothes on your back, that you have education.” — Harry Johnson, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation.

“Martin Luther King is not only a hero of Americans, he also is a hero of the world, and he pursued the universal dream of the people of the world.” — Master sculptor Lei Yixin of Changsha, China

dedicatethedream.org

Martin Luther King’s Speech: ‘I Have a Dream’ – The Full TextABC News

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds that seven in 10 Americans are very or somewhat interested in visiting the memorial.
Yet there’s a gap between races: 68% of black Americans are very interested, compared with 22% of whites.

Poll: MLK’s dream realized, but a gulf between races remains: Just over half of Americans polled say Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality has been fulfilled, and another one in four of those surveyed say major progress has been made toward it.
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds both pride and division on race relations. Nearly everyone — 90% of whites and 85% of blacks — says civil rights for blacks have improved in the USA during their lifetime, although whites are more likely to see the progress as far-reaching…. – USA Today, 8-17-11

  • Photos: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Is Unveiled in Washington: Washingtonians and visitors are now able to see the memorial dedicated to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which will sit in the nation’s capital, flanked by memorials to Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Hundreds of people came early Monday … – TIME, 8-22-11
  • Images: MLK Jr. Memorial: The statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The memorial will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 28. … – Chicago Daily Herald, 8-22-11
  • Why MLK Memorial is one of the last new structures on the National Mall: The MLK Memorial, which the public gets a glimpse of Monday, is between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. Its centerpiece is a 30-foot statue of Martin Luther King Jr…. – CS Monitor, 8-22-11
  • For March on Washington participants, memories linger decades later: Graphic: Multimedia: Civil rights leaders, including John Lewis, Juanita Abernathy and Jesse Jackson, remember Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington…. – WaPo, 8-24-11Rep. Hastings: The struggle continues for King’s dreamThe HillRep. Meeks: Making the dream a realityThe Hill

    Rep. Rangel: The dream lives onThe Hill

    Rep. Clay: A memorial is not enoughThe Hill

    Rep. Clarke: Continuing to build the dreamThe Hill

    Rep. Conyers: Dr. King’s dream of jobs, justice and peaceThe Hill

    Rep. Carson: A renewed call to positive actionThe Hill

    Rep. Bishop: Reflections on Dr. King’s memorialThe Hill

  • MLK Jr. Memorial Dedication Events: Monday’s debut kicks off a week of black-tie, white-tie and informal events all geared toward raising money for and drawing attention to the memorial and Sunday’s dedication. During that event, President Obama will bury a time capsule that will include items from him, the memorial foundation and the King family, said Harry Johnson, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation.
    The dedication will take place on the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, during which King delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech. The week will bring together civil rights luminaries, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the last surviving organizer of the March on Washington; Joseph Lowery, who helped launch the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and former United Nations ambassador and King confidante Andrew Young…. – USA Today, 8-22-11
  • National Mall adds Martin Luther King tribute: There will an anticipated crowd of more than 250,000 spectators Sunday for the dedication of the King memorial – a tranquil monument of stone, greenery and trees along the northwest edge of Washington’s Tidal Basin that will honor the slain civil rights leader.
    Sunday’s ceremony, which coincides with the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, will officially open the first monument on the National Mall honoring an African-American.
    The $120 million memorial is part of a burgeoning number of monuments in the nation’s capital recognizing African-American contributions to American life and culture.
    On Washington’s busy U Street corridor, the African American Civil War Museum recently reopened in a new, 5,000-square-foot home to better tell the story of the 200,000 slaves and freed African-Americans who fought in the conflict…. – Nashua Telegraph, 8-23-11
  • A Dream Both Realized and Deferred: If one were to look up “tenacity” in a dictionary, one might well simply search for logo of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, or a photograph of the MLK Memorial Foundation’s Executive Director Harry Johnson, Sr…. – Chicago Defender, 8-22-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s children grapple with his legacy: The children of the iconic civil rights leader have been burdened with his legacy, and have weathered their share of family turmoil since his death…. – WaPo, 8-24-11
  • Memorial Review A Mirror of Greatness, Blurred: It is a momentous occasion. Into an honored array of presidents and soldiers — the founders and protectors of the nation — has come a minister, a man without epaulets or civilian authority, who was not a creator of laws, but someone who, for a time, was a deliberate violator of them; not a wager of war but someone who, throughout his short life, was pretty much a pacifist; not an associate of the nation’s ruling elite but someone who, in many cases, would have been prevented from joining it.
    That figure is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and this Sunday, when his four-acre, $120 million memorial on the edge of the Tidal Basin is to be officially dedicated, it will be adjacent to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, across the water from Thomas Jefferson’s, and along an axis leading from that founding father directly to Abraham Lincoln’s. There are few figures in American history with similar credentials who would have even a remotely comparable claim for national remembrance on the Washington Mall…. – NYT, 8-25-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream returns to Mall 6 of 9: Years in the making, a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. opened to the public Monday…. – CBS News, 8-22-11
  • Martin Luther King Memorial details in one spot: The new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial opened Monday to smaller crowds than we’ll probably see later this week and on Sunday, when the official dedication takes place. The memorial opens at 8 am Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 am … – WaPo, 8-22-11
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial unveiled: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is revealed to members of the press before opening to the public today. The design is derived from part of King’s famous “I have a dream” speech when he said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the … – WaPo, 8-22-11
  • King memorial opens to the public today: The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial was 25 years in the making. The first members of the public to see the official opening of Washington’s new $120 million memorial to the … – WaPo, 8-22-11
  • Exploring the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial: The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial will be dedicated on Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of the day King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. plug-in now — it only takes a minute. The sculpture, called the “Stone of Hope,” gets its name from…. – WaPo, 8-22-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Monument Opens In DC: The much-anticipated memorial to civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. opened today on the National Mall. Hundreds gathered for the first look at the towering 30-foot-tall granite sculpture of King, located in between the monuments … – New York Daily News, 8-22-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr. memorial opens in Washington: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took a permanent place today on the National Mall, as a federal memorial to the civil rights leader opened to the public…. – Atlanta Journal Constitution, 8-22-11
  • What Obama Can Learn at the Martin Luther King Memorial: While the president is hanging out—or hiding out—on Martha’s Vineyard sands and greens, he’s missing a chance for spiritual solace right here in Washington, where he could commune with the spirits and memorial spaces of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and—yes!—the new sculptural arrival on the National Mall: Martin Luther King, Jr…. – US News, 8-23-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr. memorial opens on National Mall: Some were locals who have watched for years as the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took shape on the National Mall. Some were tourists who happened to be in Washington the day it opened. … – Fort Worth Star Telegram, 8-22-11
  • King’s monument to unfinished work: The memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King opened Monday on the Mall in Washington. Dr. King will take his place with Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington and FDR. The monument features a 30-foot figure of Dr. King, hewn from granite, looking forward…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 8-22-11
  • Off The Ground: Creating The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: The new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is scheduled to be dedicated on Aug. 28 — the anniversary of the civil rights leader’s “I Have A Dream” speech. The memorial, located on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, was several decades in the making…. – NPR, 8-22-11
  • Washington eyes tourism from MLK monument: Hundreds of thousands of people will gather later this month on the National Mall to witness the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the first new monument to debut in Washington, DC, since 2004. But if history repeats itself…. – Atlanta Business Chronicle, 8-19-11
  • MLK memorial ‘holy ground’ for many: The official unveiling of the latest memorial on the National Mall is scheduled for Sunday, August 28…. – WaPo, 8-23-11
  • MLK organizers monitoring Hurricane Irene: The National Park Service and organizers of the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial are closely monitoring Hurricane Irene, which is currently forecast to be moving up the East Coast and into the Mid-Atlantic … – WaPo, 8-23-11
  • CIGNA Honored to Sponsor Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial: Company donated $1 million to Memorial celebrating life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. American history will be made Sunday as the first memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC is dedicated to a private citizen — Dr. Martin Luther King … – MarketWatch, 8-24-11
  • Having a black sculptor for King would have been nice: Let’s face it: There really is something peculiar about having an artist from communist China sculpt the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial statue. And, yes, it would have been fantastic had an African American sculptor been chosen…. – WaPo, 8-24-11
  • Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. in libraries, books: By Janice D’Arcy The unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is more than a celebration of history. It’s a claim to the future. The memory of MLK and the civil rights movement will not fade if this granite tribute has anything to do with it. … – WaPo, 8-22-11
  • Richard Lischer: King’s statue a national challenge: Forty-eight years ago on a sweltering August day in Washington, D.C., the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the defining speech of the 20th century. Writing in The New York Times the next day, James Reston predicted, “It will be a long time before [America] forgets the melodious and melancholy voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. crying out his dreams to the multitude.”
    Reston was right. King has become only the fourth nonpresident and the first African-American to be honored with a monument on or near the National Mall. His memorial all but proclaims him our first black president, the father of a country so utterly transformed that his neighbors — Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and, yes, even Lincoln — would not have recognized it…. – AJC, 8-25-11
  • Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Honored with Memorial: US President Barack Obama leads the nation this Sunday in honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. – with the dedication of a new memorial…. – Voice of America, 8-25-11
  • Remembering Martin Luther King and the March for Jobs and Freedom: With the formal unveiling of the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King on August 28 – the anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – the National Mall will house a memorial to a man who never held the nation’s highest office but brought it closer to its highest ideals.
    Together with the national celebration of his birthday, the commemoration of the march and the quotation of his speeches, the new memorial ensures that Dr. King will be remembered. But will he be remembered rightly, not only as the subject of a monument but also as the leader of a movement for “jobs and freedom”?…. – The Hill, 8-25-11
  • Memorial to civil rights hero to be dedicated in DC: Despite a threat from Hurricane Irene, hundreds of thousands of people are headed to the nation’s capital for the dedication of the Dr. Martin King, Jr., Memorial. Washington, D.C., officials predicted crowds of up to a million for the week-long festivities that culminate Sunday in the unveiling of a monument in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which opened to the public Monday….. – The South Florida Times, 8-25-11
  • Earthquake alters MLK plans: The official Wednesday night opening event of the five-day dedication celebration of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial has been moved from the National Building Museum to the Washington Convention Center, officials announced.
    The event, a gala dinner entitled “Honoring Global Leaders for Peace,” had to be moved because the museum suffered damage in Tuesday’s earthquake, according to Harry E. Johnson Sr., the president of the foundation that built the memorial, located on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin…. – WaPo, 8-24-11
  • Houston civil rights icon Lawson honored in DC: The Rev. Bill Lawson and other early civil rights activists were celebrated Thursday at a luncheon in the Washington Convention Center. Houston Chronicle, 8-25-11
  • Houston civil rights leader William Lawson honored by officials gathered for memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.: A civil rights icon from Houston — the Rev. William Alexander Lawson – was honored with other pioneers of the nationwide movement on Thursday by political and civil rights leaders gathered in the nation’s capital for the dedication of the memorial to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr…. – Houston Chronicle, 8-25-11
  • Jesse Jackson slams Tea Party at MLK event: Jesse Jackson said Thursday that the Tea Party’s tenets are reminiscent of state’s rights philosophies used in decades past to oppose federally mandated integration…. – USA Today, 8-25-11
  • A memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.: By Editorial, OVER THE YEARS, an army of statues has been deployed in the parks, circles and squares of the nation’s capital, many of them commemorating men who played a role in what should have been the liberation of the African people in America. … – WaPo, 8-25-11
  • Eugene Robinson: A dream still out of reach: As the nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a stirring new memorial on the National Mall, let’s not obscure one of his most important messages in a fog of sentiment. Justice, he told us, is not just a legal or moral question but a matter of economics as well.
    In this sense, we’re not advancing toward the fulfillment of King’s dream. We’re heading in the opposite direction.
    Aug. 28 is the anniversary of the 1963 march and rally at which King delivered the indelible “I Have a Dream” speech. That event — one of the watershed moments of 20th-century America — was officially called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Meaningful employment was a front-and-center demand…. – WaPo, 8-25-11
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