Thousands Gather to Break Ground for King Memorial





U.S. civil rights leaders on Monday dug gold-tipped shovels into a trough of dirt to break ground for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the first monument to an African-American on the National Mall.

``As we turn these shovels we are just beginning to turn the dirt, and as we turn this dirt at this ground, let us go back to our communities and turn the dirt there,'' said former King aide Andrew Young, admonishing attendees to continue the slain leader's work against racism, poverty and violence.

Nearly 5,000 people, including TV show host Oprah Winfrey and former President Bill Clinton braved the morning cold to celebrate the life of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Speakers quoted King's sermons and speeches and paid tribute to his belief that non-violent protest could help end discrimination against black Americans.

Democrat Barack Obama from Illinois, the only African-American serving in the U.S. Senate and a possible presidential candidate in 2008, wondered what to tell his daughters when they visit the monument.

``I will tell them this man gave his life serving others,'' Obama said. ``I will tell them this man tried to love somebody. I will tell them that because he did those things they live today, with the freedom God intended, their citizenship unquestioned, their dreams unbounded.''

Construction officially begins on the crescent-shaped four-acre site in the spring and is scheduled to be completed in 2008.


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