“WITH THIS FAITH, WE WILL BE ABLE TO HEW OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN OF DESPAIR A STONE OF HOPE” —Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
That “stone of hope” now stands on the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., as a memorial to Dr. King. Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight for civil rights and believed that all Americans should have equal opportunities. Justice, hope, democracy and love were the main focus of his message to America.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the only one on the Mall dedicated to an African-American and a non-President. Sculpted by Chinese artist Lei Yixin, the memorial shows King as the 30-foot tall Stone of Hope. King is pushing through the Mountain of Despair, which are two other huge slabs of granite.
Construction of the memorial took almost five years from groundbreaking to completion at a cost of $120 million. John W. Rogers Jr. is chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments. His company contributed to the fundraising effort. “Dr. King inspires all of us to fight for justice and to respect everybody,” Rogers told TFK.
Honoring a Leader
There were several events held during the dedication weekend. TFK was able to march with thousands of people from around the country alongside civil-rights leaders the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton. “It is awesome,” Sharpton said of the march. “It is a day that brings all Americans together.”
The original date for the dedication was to have been August 28, which was the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. But the events were postponed when Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast. The actual dedication of the memorial took place on Sunday October 16. Aretha Franklin sang one of Dr. King’s favorite hymns and Stevie Wonder lent his talent, leading the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday,” the song he wrote dedicated to King.
President Barack Obama gave a speech, reminding the audience about the difficulties that King faced in his fight for civil rights. Even after King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 many people still rejected his ideas. Through it all, he never gave up and he moved the country forward because of his leadership and courage. President Obama explained both how far we have come and how far we still have to go to fulfill Dr. King’s dream. “Change has never been simple or without controversy,” he said.
At a reception at the White House following the dedication, President Obama spoke to TFK. “If it weren’t for Martin Luther King Jr., we wouldn’t have as many great opportunities as we have today,” he said. “It means a great deal for my family to celebrate this day and I think it’s important for all families to remember Martin Luther King Jr.”