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Politician pledges to clear hurdles for King memorial

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by Daily Commercial News

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is offering to pull some strings to get construction started on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial planned for the National Mall.

WASHINGTON

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is offering to pull some strings to get construction started on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial planned for the National Mall.

The project has been stalled for about a year because of a disagreement between the foundation building the memorial and the National Park Service over how to secure the site against possible domestic terror threats.

The towering 28-foot sculpture of King, the 1960s civil rights champion, is 80 per cent complete, but construction of the memorial plaza along the Tidal Basin cannot start until all of the necessary permissions are secured.

Duncan said it’s time to get to work and offered to make some calls to fellow members of the Obama administration, drawing applause from students and others who gathered at the memorial site to mark the 46th anniversary of the March on Washington.

King gave his most famous oration, the “I Have a Dream” speech, there on Aug. 28, 1963.

Duncan said he wants young people to know about King’s leadership in the fight for equality, education and social justice.

“We have to make sure those lessons are instilled in our next generation, and I worry a lot about that: about our young students thinking that’s ancient history; that we’ve solved those challenges,” he said.

Foundation members said they have redesigned the memorial plaza with an island of elm trees and a few metal security posts that would prevent a driver from entering, rather than a long line of barriers.

Design critics had said too many barriers would clutter the site and contradict King’s legacy of openness and inclusiveness.

“I think we’ve come up with a design that will make everybody happy,” said Harry Johnson, president of the non-profit foundation working to build the monument. “We’re ready to start construction.”

The park service will present the revised design in October to a panel that oversees architecture in the nation’s capital, which had criticized the security barriers.

The memorial foundation also recently submitted a request for building permits to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversees the park service, and is waiting for approval, Johnson said.

Architect Ed Jackson Jr. said the three primary pieces of the granite memorial are set to be shipped from the studio of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin in October.

The granite sculpture will be shipped in 144 pieces and stored until construction is under way.

Associated Press

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