Thousands Attend Groundbreaking for MLK Memorial

November 13, 2006 at 2:41 PM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: Finally tonight, creating a new memorial for the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Thousands of people joined dignitaries and civil rights leaders at the National Mall for the groundbreaking this morning.

It’s the first memorial on the Mall to honor an individual African-American. It’s located between the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King gave his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” in 1963. The site will include a sculpture of King, waterfalls, walls engraved with his words, and themes of justice, democracy and hope.

Here are some excerpts of today’s ceremony, beginning with remarks by one of Dr. King’s daughters, Yolanda Denise King.

YOLANDA DENISE KING, Daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Our father was a King, not the kind who wore a velvet robe, but one who was robed with a velvet voice, a voice of clarity, conviction and compassion, a voice that even a cowardly bullet could not steal, for his voice lives on in the hearts of all of us who believe in freedom and justice for all.

Our father was a King, not the kind who made me a princess, but one who made me a peacemaker, for he taught us that love is the ultimate healer. And where love abides, there you will also find peace.

Thank you, God, for our father.

Leaders reflect on King's work

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: With thousands gathered around him, Dr. King looked out over the American capital and declared his famous words, "I have a dream." His dream spread a message of hope that echoed from his hometown of Sweet Auburn, Georgia, to the pulpit of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

An assassin's bullet could not shatter the dream. Dr. King's message of justice and brotherhood took hold in the hearts of men and women across the great land of ours; it continues to inspire millions across the world.

BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: The monument -- however beautiful it turns out to be -- will be but a physical manifestation of the monument already constructed in the lives and hearts of millions of Americans who are more just, more decent, more successful, more perfect because he lived.

When the real battlefield is the human heart, civil disobedience works better than suicide bombing; fighting your opponents with respect and reason works better than aspersion and attack.

OPRAH WINFREY, Talk Show Host: I didn't get to be who I am, where I am alone. And so today, to Martin Luther King and all of those who walked the line for us, the boycott line and the sit-in lines, the protest lines, from Montgomery to Selma to Birmingham to Cicero, they were insulted, and brutalized, and hosed, and humiliated again and again.

It is because of Dr. King, and all of those who walked with him, that I stand. And because of them, I have a voice that can be heard, and I want you to know that I do not take that for granted, not for one breath.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), Georgia: As a young child, I had tasted the bitter fruits of segregation and racism, and I didn't like it. I would ask my mother and ask my father, my grandparents and great-grandparents, "Why segregation? Why racial discrimination?" And they would say, "That's the way it is. Don't get in trouble. Don't get in the way."

Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired me and thousands of other Americans to get in the way. He inspired us to get in trouble. But it was good trouble; it was necessary trouble. And that's why we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., today.

RAY SUAREZ: The memorial is scheduled to open in 2008. Fundraising is not yet complete. For more information, go to