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President Obama calls for unity at MLK dedication

President Barack Obama urged Americans to emulate Martin Luther King Jr.’s will and determination during the dedication ceremony of the MLK memorial on the National Mall Oct. 16.

The ceremony was originally scheduled for Aug. 28, but was postponed due to heavy rain from Hurricane Irene.

Obama said America should look to change the future and not dwell on the past.

“We can’t get hung up on what is,” Obama said. “We’ve got to keep pushing towards what ought to be.”

The chanting of “four more years” was heard from the crowd as Obama walked onto the stage.

“An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied,” Obama said, standing at the base of the newly constructed memorial on the Tidal Basin with an audience of about 50,000 people.

Obama said the work of civil rights leaders is not yet complete despite their numerous accomplishments, including the March on Washington.

“In too many troubled neighborhoods across the country, the conditions of our poorest citizens appear little changed from what existed 50 years ago,” he said. “Neighborhoods with underfunded schools and broken-down slums, inadequate health care, constant violence, neighborhoods in which too many young people grow up with little hope and few prospects for the future.”

The president advised the nation to be persistent to make change happen, using civil rights leaders as an example. Even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, black Americans still struggle, living in some of the poorest conditions in the United States, he said.

“I know there are better days ahead,” he said. “I know this because of the man towering over us. I know this because all he and his generation endured — we are here today in a country that dedicated a monument to that legacy.”

nglass@theeagleonline.com