MIAMI BEACH — Former President Bill Clinton will speak at a Jan. 8 fundraising dinner for a memorial in Washington, D.C. that will honor Martin Luther King Jr.

During a press conference last week at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. announced that Clinton will receive its Humanitarian Award and will speak at the Miami Dream Dinner.

Money raised at the event will be used to meet the Foundation’s goal of the additional $20 million needed to complete the project’s funding, according to Rica Orszag, the Foundation’s spokesperson.

The fundraising dinner will take place on Jan. 8, 2009 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which donated $1 million to the King memorial foundation, will serve as the dinner’s lead sponsor.

“We are thrilled that President Clinton has accepted our invitation to receive the Humanitarian Award for his unparalleled work related to economic empowerment, racial, ethnic and religious
reconciliation, health security and leadership development and citizen service,” said Harry Johnson, the King Memorial Foundation’s president and CEO.  “We are equally appreciative that the Knight Foundation is playing a leadership role in building the memorial and involving the Miami community.”

Clinton played a key role in the memorial’s inception and has since remained an active supporter, according to Johnson.  He has served on the Foundation’s President’s Council for several years.

“We have done a series of these dinners throughout the country to raise money,” Orszag said, “and are excited about the amount of support received.”

Dream Dinners have also been held in Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston.

The U.S. House of Representatives, on Sept. 28, 1996, passed Joint Resolution 70, authorizing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to establish a memorial in Washington, D.C. honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On July 16, 1998, Clinton, as president, signed a Joint Congressional Resolution authorizing the building of the memorial and participated in its November 2006 ceremonial groundbreaking.

The Foundation, in an effort to fund the memorial, has raised $100 million of the $120 million necessary for the project.

The memorial will stand on a four-acre site on the National Mall along the Tidal Basin, adjacent to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and on a direct line between the Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson Memorials.

Johnson said that they are “ready to go with the project, but there is a hold up with the construction permit.”

According to Johnson, the Foundation has the approval from both the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission, but the National Park Service has not yet issued a permit “because they are requesting that the design include security measures, and security officers physically at the site. There are two other memorials on the grounds, and they don’t require security.”

The National Park Service cited “possible security threats” for the delay, but “nothing was specific,” according to Johnson.

The Associated Press, however, has reported that the National Park Service insists that the memorial’s design include security measures, identifying an unspecified security threat by extremist groups “spouting racist ideologies.” But other agencies with authority over the capital’s architecture have resisted security barriers, calling them an embarrassment to King’s legacy of inclusiveness, according to the AP.

“We are there to build a memorial to Dr. King,” Johnson said, “not to argue. Now we feel stuck in the middle.”

Once the work on the memorial begins, it will take 20 months to complete, Orszag said. “And we are hoping that it begins soon.”

Everyone making a donation to the Foundation will have their names listed in the kiosk located in the memorial’s visitor’s center and bookstore.

Photo: Bill Clinton



WHAT: 2009 Miami Dream Dinner

WHERE:  Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.

WHEN:  Thursday, Jan. 8. VIP reception, 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.

COST:  Tickets are $250 and $500. Corporate sponsorships start at $10,000. All donations are tax deductable.

CONTACT:  For more information or to purchase tickets, call 305-377-1817, or visit