by Marcia Davis

Harry E. Johnson Sr., the president and CEO of the MLK National Memorial Project Foundation, delivered the keynote Friday evening at the 27th annual program honoring the civil rights leader. The program is sponsored by the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.

Johnson’s poignant and sometimes humorous remarks traced the origins of the monument — which started with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, of which King was a member — to the challenges of raising millions to pay for it, to the political controversies surrounding the memorial.

Johnson also gave a funny account of his frustrations over the final challenge: being forced at the last minute to reschedule the August dedication, where 250,000 people were expected to attend and President Obama was scheduled to speak. Hurricane Irene forced the dedication to be delayed until October. But, as Johnson said, it all worked out in the end.

“For the first time in our country’s history the [National] Mall is now more diversified and looking more like America,” he told his audience.