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Continuing to build the dream: Anticipating the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial

Continuing to build the dream: Anticipating the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial

By Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) – 08/24/11 03:39 PM ET

To some Americans, August 28 would seemingly be just another ordinary day. However, history marked this day in 1963 as the day when one of the most profound, forward-thinking speeches in modern day history was delivered to our nation and to the world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a prominent voice in the civil rights and human rights movement gave his prophetic “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This speech not only instilled hope for racial equality and justice in America, it provided a vision that challenged the prevailing views, the status quo of the time, and provided a new vision of peace and prosperity for all.

Now, on the 48th anniversary of this great speech, our nation will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic role in changing our nation by unveiling the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. This historic monument is a manifestation of Dr. King’s image carved in stone that will remind our nation of not only how far we have come, but how far we must to go in fulfilling the dream of which Dr. King so eloquently spoke.

Dr. King helped all of us understand that “… the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice….,” and that ultimately, we shall overcome. This inspirational message filled our nation with hope during some of the darkest times in our history. Even through the great racial divide that existed, Dr. King espoused a philosophy with a core message of national unity. Even while many people endured racist attacks from police dogs, were hosed downed by fire hoses, beaten and jailed… Dr. King still maintained a posture of non-violence, hope, equality, and change. Even after being jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr. courageously and boldly spoke out against racial inequality. In the famous letter written in a Birmingham jail, Dr. King wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This message reverberated across the United States and around the world. The creation and dedication of this monument is a reminder of that message of hope and an appeal to the nation for an enlightened and just civil society. It is as relevant today as it was on August 28, 1963.

As a proud beneficiary of the civil rights movement, it will be an honor and privilege to witness the unveiling of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. I will look at the magnificent monument and reflect on my indebtedness to Dr. King, civil rights leaders and every day Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice that would extend certain inalienable rights that my generation and future generations enjoy today. It also fills me with the sense of obligation to continue the pursuit of the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. It is a stark reminder of the sacrifice, vigilance and perserverance required to attain and maintain the dream of equality in our nation. With the unemployment rate in the African American community at 15.9 percent and the national unemployment rate for the nation at 9.1 percent, it is clear that the struggle still continues.

I have no doubt that August 28, 2011 will be a historic day just like it was 48 years ago. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National memorial is a beacon of hope, symbolizing both the growth and progress in the struggle to make Dr. King’s dream a reality. There is no doubt that Dr. King was a gift to humanity. He gave his life in pursuit of the fulfillment of the real “American Dream” where women and men will not be “judged by the color of there skin, but by the content of their character.” By extension, Dr. King’s monument is also a symbol of the civil rights movement and a tribute to all who sacrificed in the fight against racial inequality. Today we hold them and their sacrifices in reverence and realize the courage of their convictions. Their perseverance through adversity has liberated our nation from the blatant “Jim Crow” laws of racial injustice in our past.

I hope that the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial will be a life-altering experience that inspires every American to rededicate themselves to the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. It will be an honor to share this experience with the many brave Americans who fought and who lost their lives in pursuit of making our nation a better place for us all.