MLK Memorial Finally Dedicated After 10 Years of Fundraising, a Hurricane and Earthquake

The celebration was far smaller than organizers had anticipated back in August, but the message was loud and clear: there's still work left to be done.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 17, 2011

After ten years of fundraising, a lot of hard work an earthquake and a hurricane, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was dedicated at last on Sunday. It’s the first monument to honor an African-American on the National Mall. 

The ceremony included a star-studded list of other speakers, including President Obama, Dr. King’s children, civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson and Rep. John Lewis. The ticket also included performers Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, who reminded the overwhelmingly black audience to continue the work the slain civil rights leader’s fight for justice four decades after he was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee.

As a sign of the times, Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter, mentioned the economy and perhaps even alluding to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. "We should never adjust to one percent of the people controlling 40 percent of the wealth," Bernice King said in her speech. "I hear my father say, ‘We must have a radical revolution of values and reordering of priorities of this nation.’ "

Several speakers made references to next year’s election, and made direct appeals to people to vote for Obama. Jesse Jackson referred to Obama’s Republican opponents as "men that seem willing to sink the ship just to destroy the captain."

The crowd was estimated at 30,000. It was a sharp drop from the 250,000 organizers had expected at the original dedication that had been scheduled for Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. That date had to be postponed when Hurricane Irene threatened to badly damage several cities along the eastern seaboard. 

Below are speeches from the event:

King’s sister and children speak at the memorial dedication.

Some of the largest cheers were for Rev. Al Sharpton who told the audience to continue King’s legacy. He also commented on the Republican plan to change Medicare, he said: "This is not about Obama. This is about your mama!"

Jesse Jackson tells Occupy Wall Street demonstrators to remain non-violent.

President Obama walked on stage with applause and the crowd cheering "four more years, four more years!"