MLK memorial fundraisers near goal

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They have a dream. And it’s almost a reality.

In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton authorized Congressional legislation proposing the establishment of a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in the District. More than a decade later, funding is nearly complete and planners hope to move forward with construction.

The planned site for the memorial is located by the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and is meant to convey three major themes: justice, democracy, and hope. Completion is planned for 2011.

More than $100 million of the $120 million needed for the project has already been raised, and dozens of organizations and companies have made large donations to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to cover the cost of the memorial. The NFL Players Association announced last month that they would donate $1 million, and last year the Wal-Mart Foundation pledged a $12.5 million credit for the memorial, adding to the $1 million it donated in 2005.

Though funding is now at more than 80 percent, the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation still needs the proper credentials to go through with construction plans.

“We are anxiously awaiting a construction permit from the National Park Service and will be ready to go once this is issued,” Rica Orszag, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said in an e-mail.

Trees, water and stone will be the three major elements of the monument, and quotes from King’s sermons and speeches will be present throughout. A 28-foot tall granite sculpture of King will be the centerpiece of the memorial. A Chinese sculptor is about 80 percent done with the “Stone of Hope,” as it is being called.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the memorial will be the 24 niches located on the upper walkway, a tribute to the individuals who gave their lives to the civil rights movement.

A certain number of niches will remain undedicated and open, representing the unfinished nature of the cause.

“The King Memorial is intended to be personally transformative for visitors, building a sense of commitment to the promise of positive change and active citizenship,” according to the foundation’s Web site.

Orszag said construction will take between 18 and 20 months once it is underway.

Individuals wanting to contribute can visit and make a donation in exchange for a “Build the Dream” wristband.

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