Tuskegee University president, Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, will deliver the principal address this weekend at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to rededicate the monument in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln.
Payton, the fifth president of historic Tuskegee University, is expected to speak about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, during a rededication ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The memorial, which millions of tourists visit annually, was constructed on the National Mall to honor Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president. The rededication event will serve as the culmination of a three-part series of events held at the memorial in the Lincoln bicentennial year.
“This historic invitation and recognition underscores the continuing vitality of Abraham Lincoln in the life of the nation,” Payton said.
Officials explain that Payton’s selection as a principal speaker for the rededication event honors the precedent established when Dr. Robert Russa Moton, Tuskegee’s second president, delivered a keynote address at the inaugural dedication of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 1922. Moton was the successor to Tuskegee’s founding president, Booker T. Washington, one of the best known and influential African-American leaders in U.S. history.
“We believe this tribute will serve both to honor President Abraham Lincoln and to offer a time to reflect on his legacy,” said Ken Salazar, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Salazar along with Payton and others will preside during the rededication event, which is free and open to the public. According to a university statement, Payton has indicated that he “is privileged to have been invited to offer the main speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”
“Lincoln’s words and deeds have always struck me as one of the most authentic, powerful and compelling calls for freedom, justice and respect for all enslaved and oppressed people in our nation’s history. His vision remains just as vital for the creation of a truly civil and fair society in 2009 as it was when he lived or was celebrated on this spot in 1922,” Payton states.
“This occasion also provides the opportunity to highlight the continuing vitality and significant role Tuskegee University plays today,” added Payton. “A contemporary discussion of liberty and democracy is in keeping with the university’s leadership and core values.”
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