Good morning. On behalf of President Barack Obama and the United States Department of the Interior, I am humbled and honored to celebrate with you the birth of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall as the nation's 395th National Park.
I remember vividly the day that Dr. King was assassinated. I was 13 years old, doing chores with my father on our ranch in Colorado when a neighbor delivered the shocking news that he had been shot. We had no telephone or electricity at our ranch, so news came mainly by word of mouth.
In the years since that day, I have seen and understood the legacy of Dr. King –that as citizens of Earth we are all one people and have a duty to standup for justice and equality for all.
Today, as Secretary of Interior, I have the honor of serving as a custodian of America's history. I have a duty to make sure that all of America's story is told … and, with the dedication of this memorial, we are honoring a critical chapter in America's story on the march of civil rights and the struggle to create a more perfect union.
Dr. King pushed the struggle of civil rights for all people into the consciousness of America and the world. Millions of disenfranchised Americans found new hope, dignity and opportunity to share fully in the blessings of our nation.
As I stand here before you, my President, leaders of the civil rights movement, members of the King family, members of Congress and national leaders and dignitaries, I feel indebted to those who gave me and so many other Americans the opportunity that had been denied to the generations preceding me.
I am also painfully aware that Dr. King's dream of equality and dignity for all people continues to elude us. Discrimination based on race and class is still present in the boardrooms and power centers of America. It is also at the root of the divisive battles over immigration in America.
This memorial stands as a testament that Dr. King's struggle for civil rights continues today, and that we share his dream that one day we will all live in a world where there is dignity, respect, and justice for all.
When our children and grandchildren visit this place….this memorial….they will share in Dr. King's story, which is the story of America. It is a story that teaches us that individuals – in the face of long odds and centuries of injustice – can summon the courage to change the world.
In Dr. King's own words: “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”