WASHINGTON -- On a gray, autumn morning, a national dedication nearly a decade in the making broke ground on the Tidal Basin here.
An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the Nov. 13 groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial that will honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Spearheaded by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, the memorial and educational center will feature King's life and accomplishments. The four-acre site on the Northeast corner of the Tidal Basin within the precinct of the Jefferson Memorial is scheduled to be complete by spring 2008. A visitor's center and donor wall will also be housed nearby.
To date, fundraising efforts have garnered more than $65.5 million toward the $100 million goal. At an Oct. 25 meeting, credit union leaders donated $60,000 for the effort. The $486 million Vantage Credit Union donated $50,000 and CUES donated $10,000. The credit union movement's goal is to raise at least $2 million, according to Hubert Hoosman, funding chairperson for the African-American Credit Union Coalition and president/CEO of Vantage.
The World Council of Credit Unions is the latest in the movement to help with the effort. The council has donated $5,000, said Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO. Remembering King's vision and how it served as a voice for the voiceless motivated WOCCU to want to help with the building of the memorial.
"He honored some of the same people we represent--the economically disenfranchised and disadvantaged," Crear said. "WOCCU is proud to be a part of the bigger credit union movement that is helping [the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation]. Sitting in the fourth row at the groundbreaking, Hoosman called Credit Union Times that morning and said there was indeed a large turnout of people from all walks of life. "Unbelievable," Hoosman said of the ceremony. "It was a morning to behold." Oprah Winfrey, poet Maya Angelou, President Bush and former President Bill Clinton, who signed legislation in 1996 authorizing the monument, were among the speakers at the ceremony. Three of King's children, Martin, Bernice and Yolanda, also gave moving speeches. A number of musical artists including Bebe Winans, and Naomi and Wynona Judd performed and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) spoke. Fifty youths from across the country who participated in the "Kids for King" National Essay Program were randomly selected to attend the groundbreaking and four got the chance to read excerpts from their essays.
Hoosman said he was sitting next to the director of the Victims Right Foundation, a volunteer group that performs support services on behalf of victims of violent crimes and attacks, who had brought a Vietnamese woman who had just obtained her citizenship.
"She had tears in her eyes on just being there," Hoosman recalled.
On the ride back from the ceremony, a hush fell over the shuttle as three generations of men shared their personal experiences and knowledge of King's sacrifices, Hoosman said.
"Everybody stopped what they were doing and just listened," he said. --firstname.lastname@example.org