IS SPOKEN BEFORE THE VIDEO BEGINS:
I want to thank first of all the King family, we would not be here
without them, I want to thank Mr. Johnson and the foundation for
allowing me to share this day with all of you. I wish to recognize
as well my colleagues in the United States Senate who have helped
make today possible. Senators Paul Sarbanes and John Warner, who
wrote the bill for this memorial. Senators Thad Cochran and Robert
Byrd who appropriated the money to help build it. Thank you all.
I have two daughters, ages
five and eight. And when I see the plans for this memorial, I think
about what it will like when I first bring them here upon the memorial's
completion. I imagine us walking down to this tidal basin, between
one memorial dedicated to the man who helped give birth to a nation,
and another dedicated to the man who preserved it. I picture us
walking beneath the shadows cast by the Mountain of Despair, and
gazing up at the Stone of Hope, and reading the quotes on the wall
together as the water falls like rain.
And at some point, I know
that one of my daughters will ask, perhaps my youngest, will ask,
"Daddy, why is this monument here? What did this man do?"
How might I answer them?
Unlike the others commemorated in this place, Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. was not a president of the United States - at no time in
his life did he hold public office. He was not a hero of foreign
wars. He never had much money, and while he lived he was reviled
at least as much as he was celebrated. By his own accounts, he was
a man frequently racked with doubt, a man not without flaws, a man
who, like Moses before him, more than once questioned why he had
been chosen for so arduous a task - the task of leading a people
to freedom, the task of healing the festering wounds of a nation's
And yet lead a nation he
did. Through words he gave voice to the voiceless. Through deeds
he gave courage to the faint of heart. By dint of vision, and determination,
and most of all faith in the redeeming power of love, he endured
the humiliation of arrest, the loneliness of a prison cell, the
constant threats to his life, until he finally inspired a nation
to transform itself, and begin to live up to the meaning of its
Like Moses before him,
he would never live to see the Promised Land. But from the mountain
top, he pointed the way for us - a land no longer torn asunder with
racial hatred and ethnic strife, a land that measured itself by
how it treats the least of these, a land in which strength is defined
not simply by the capacity to wage war but by the determination
to forge peace - a land in which all of God's children might come
together in a spirit of brotherhood.
We have not yet arrived
at this longed for place. For all the progress we have made, there
are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us - when we
are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our
angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions
and tribal allegiances.
And yet, by erecting this
monument, we are reminded that this different, better place beckons
us, and that we will find it not across distant hills or within
some hidden valley, but rather we will find it somewhere in our
In the Book of Micah, Chapter
6, verse 8, the prophet says that God has already told us what is
"What doth the Lord
require of thee, the verse tells us, but to do justly, and to love
mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
The man we honor today
did what God required. In the end, that is what I will tell my daughters
- I will leave it to their teachers and their history books to tell
them the rest. As Dr. King asked to be remembered, I will tell them
that this man gave his life serving others. I will tell them that
this man tried to love somebody. I will tell them that because he
did these things, they live today with the freedom God intended,
their citizenship unquestioned, their dreams unbounded. And I will
tell them that they too can love. That they too can serve. And that
each generation is beckoned anew, to fight for what is right, and
strive for what is just, and to find within itself the spirit, the
sense of purpose, that can remake a nation and transform a world.
Thank you very much.