Obama dedicates King memorial in Washington

Updated: 2011-10-17 05:45


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Obama dedicates King memorial in Washington
US President Barack Obama speaks at a dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington October 16, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Sunday dedicated the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C., reminding supporters that "our work is not done" and "change can come if you don't give up."

The president made the remarks at the memorial featuring an imposing 30-foot-tall statue of the deceased US civil rights leader, whose iconic "I have a dream" speech inspired millions around the world.

"Without that shining moment, without Dr. King's glorious words, we might not have had the courage to come as far as we have," said Obama, referring to the August 1963 speech. "Laws changed, but hearts and minds changed, as well."

Obama went on to emphasize that "our work, Dr. King's work, is not yet complete." He said the country is facing "a moment of great challenge and great change," adding that change has never been quick or without controversy.

"Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination," he stressed.

Obama is facing tough battles in Washington to advance his jobs agenda, with measures opposed by Republicans such as massive investment and taxing the rich. He is to embark on a three-day bus trip on Monday to garner public support for the measures.

"Change can come if you don't give up," said Obama.

As the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is spreading all over the country and even across the world, Obama also addressed the people's anger toward corporate greed in his speech, saying if King were alive today, he would "remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there."


The dedication took place under a blue sky and bright sun. Thousands of people from all over the country lined up as early as five in the morning to take part in the historic ceremony. Organizers had estimated over 50,000 would attend.

Kimberly Wallace, who came from the southeastern US state of Georgia, said she was "so emotional to be here." She said she wanted to "be here for this, for Dr. Martin Luther King, representing Atlanta."

"I just want to show that the youth are still alive and kicking, and we want to push this to the next generation," she said of the legacies of King. She said she thinks King was "embodied in all of us," because "we are all able to make these changes."

Wanda Gadsden, who lives in Virginia, was also overwhelmed by emotion. She said she missed President Obama's inauguration ceremony about three years ago, and being at the King memorial dedication gave her the same feeling of "being part of history."

"This means so much to me," she said. "Martin Luther King and his dream ... for our people, it just means so much to me."

King's legacy not only inspired the African Americans. Robert Tustin, who is half Anglo, half Mexican, said the civil rights movement helped him, too.

"There was a lot of discrimination against us also. Not slavery, not that bad a situation, but I think what happened helped all of us," said Tustin.

The memorial was originally planned to be dedicated in August, but was pushed back because of Hurricane Irene. After its opening in late August, the memorial has drawn an estimated 1.5 million visitors.

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