MLK Memorial Dream Becomes a Reality

"I have a dream today" -- the iconic words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- will ring true again today when ground is broken for a national monument honoring the civil rights leader.

The memorial will be the first on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall that recognizes the civil rights movement.

However, the road to the groundbreaking has not been smooth as the memorial has been in planning and fundraising stages for more than 20 years.

"We faced some challenges," said Harry Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

"9/11 was a challenge when we began our fundraising campaigning in earnest. The [2004] tsunami [in Thailand] was a challenge. Hurricane Katrina was a challenge, so you're fighting for dollars. Money in everybody's pocket -- that's the only thing that can keep us from getting there," Johnson said.

More Funding Needed for Completion

The project has raised $63 million to date, but still needs $37 million more for the memorial be completed.

Continued support from people like former President Clinton, who in 1996 signed a law to protect the land on which the memorial is to be built; Oprah Winfrey; and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons could endure the memorial completion.

"Even more than aid, even more than education and opportunity, the greatest thing we can give the world is consciousness," Simmons said of the memorial.

The MLK memorial will stand on the last remaining open space on the National Mall between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, facing the steps on which King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28, 1963.

The groundbreaking ceremony will include a performance by Wynonna and Naomi Judd, as well as a reading of "An Amazing Peace" by Maya Angelou.

Guests at the ceremony will include President Bush, Clinton, Winfrey, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and King's children.

In total, the dedication is expected to draw close to 5,000 people.

Construction of the memorial is expected to be completed in 2008.

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