Ceremony to dedicate MLK Memorial in progress

October 16, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The weather in Washington Sunday morning was sunny and beautiful, according to ABC7's Cheryl Burton.

Just before 8 a.m. Chicago time, the dedication choir wrapped up its rendition of "I Have A Dream." Those singing represented 12 states and even the country of Germany. About one hour of the four-hour dedication ceremony was complete.

Later Sunday, star-studded performances were scheduled to dedicate the 30-foot monument that pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement, and to the work that still needs to be done.

Hundreds of thousands of people began lining up as early as 3 a.m. to see the monument. Some visitors traveled from as far as California, coming to Washington to witness a piece of history.

The King Memorial was 20 years in the making, and $120 million in funding was raised to build it. It is located in the tidal basin between two men -- two presidents -- and, as one person said Sunday, it is fitting that the monument is located between two presidents, and now it is fit for a "king."

Members of Dr. King's family talked during the ceremony about the United States living up to the American dream and seeing the realization of Dr. King's dream. They said Martin Luther King Jr. would be humbled by the monumen, but he would only be happy if children benefited from what it means: the man, the message and the movement.

"He was my little brother, and I watched him grow and develop into a man who was destined for a very special kind of greatness," said sister Dr. Christine King Farris.

She added noted the fact that it is the first time an African-American person is being honored with a monument on the National Mall.

"The entire King family is proud to witness this day. I am especially proud to stand here as one of the four children to whom my father referred as he resounded the American dream that one day we would live in a nation where we would not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character," daughter Bernice King said.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who just turned 90 years old, marched in the movement with Dr. Martin Luther King. His family spoke to those gathered Sunday about the meaning and the purpose of the King monument, and they said when they look at it sometimes, it often brings them to tears because it reminds them of how far the country has come, but it also reminds them of lives lost.

Many of those present Sunday were also in Washington for the originally planned dedication in August, but they were turned away. Hurricane Irene's arrival on the East Coast forced the cancelation of those festivities.

Earlier Sunday, ABC7 spoke with Dr. Harry Johnson, the president of the King Memorial fundraising efforts. He was heartbroken when the ceremony had to be postponed a few months ago, but Sunday, he said the event represented a dream deferred but not denied.

"My thoughts were thoughts of happiness really, a fulfillment that this has happened for the enjoyment of all who have come to see this. Again, this is not about me. It is about all of us and the community and as a country, as a nation, as a world, that we honor Dr. King in this manner. Dr. King was a hero," Johnson said.

Johnson also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King back in August after the ceremonies were postponed, saying that this is finite disappointment, but there is still infinite hope.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Eastern time, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, was scheduled to close out the program with a speech timed at about 20 minutes. Friday, he visited to the monument for the first time with the first lady and his family.

Performing Sunday were Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, and the gospel duo Mary Mary. Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather and Rev. Jesse Jackson were also expected to speak-- all part of a regal event in the nation's capital.

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