A Detail of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the
National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. King is often presented as a heroic leader in the history of modern American liberalism. "I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.
President Obama called for equality for gay and lesbian Americans in his inaugural address: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. He also referenced the Stonewall riots with other civil rights battles, tying it into the legacy of MLK Jr.: We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. This was the first use of the word "gay" ever by a President in an inaugural address.
The speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.
According to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, "Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations."
The March on Washington put much more pressure on the Kennedy administration to advance civil rights legislation in Congress. The diaries of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., published posthumously in 2007, suggest that President Kennedy was concerned that if the march failed to attract large numbers of demonstrators, it might undermine his civil rights efforts. In the wake of the speech and march, King was named Man of the Year by TIME magazine for 1963, and in 1964, he was the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2003, the National Park Service dedicated an inscribed marble pedestal to commemorate the location of King's speech at the Lincoln Memorial. In 2004, the Library of Congress honored the speech by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry.
The monument which dedicated and commemorated on the 48th Anniversary of his famous speech "I Have a Dream," (August 28,1963), was unveiled by President Barack Obama at the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Sunday, October 16th, 2011.
Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., Bernice King at the Washington Munument
Civil rights leaders including Julian Bond, Reverend Joseph Lowery, Congressman John Lewis, Marian Wright Edelman, Ambassador Andrew Young, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Lee A. Saunders, and Reverend Al Sharpton spoke as well as members of the King Family and Dan Rather, who covered the civil rights movement early in his career. Musical and spoken tributes were delivered by poet Nikki Giovanni, Mary Mary, Miri Ben-Ari and PoemCees, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Jennifer Holliday. The Dedication Choir is a specially selected group of 75 vocalists from across the Washington metropolitan area and directed by Reverend Nolan Williams, Jr.