King Memorial dedicated in Washington

Photo courtesy NPS

ATLANTA — The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial was formally dedicated Sunday on the National Mall, just more than 48 years after the famed civil rights leader led a march on Washington and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Dr. King’s legacy is a vital part not only of Atlanta’s rich cultural heritage, but also of the nation, and indeed the world,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “His speeches mobilized a people, his leadership moved a nation and his commitment to nonviolence inspired millions around the globe. On October 16th, we will celebrate the life of a visionary whose foresight remains relevant today. Dr. King is one of our nation’s greatest heroes, and the King Memorial on the National Mall is a fitting tribute.”In addition to the carving, the monument features 17 quotes from King.

Chinese sculptor Lee Yixin created the monument of King, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. The memorial, located along the Tidal Basin near the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, opened to the public on Aug. 22, but was formally dedicated on Sunday, a ceremony that was originally scheduled for Aug. 28, but delayed by Hurricane Irene.

“During the past 126 years, 12 monuments and memorials have been constructed on the reserve area of the National Mall, each reflecting an important moment in our shared history. The addition of the MLK Memorial adds another layer to this irreplaceable piece of our American fabric,” Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, said in a statement. “The memorial to Dr. King will sit directly between the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial, creating a ‘line of leadership’ between three men whose ideals helped to shape our nation and are now celebrated on the National Mall.

“This important addition to the National Mall further underscores the importance of restoring our nation’s most popular park,” Cunningham added. “The MLK Memorial will draw an estimated 5 million visitors each year, exposing even more people to the National Mall experience and the history of our country.”

Said President Obama, according to a transcript of his remarks: “So it is right for us to celebrate today Dr. King’s dream and his vision of unity. And yet it is also important on this day to remind ourselves that such progress did not come easily; that Dr. King’s faith was hard-won; that it sprung out of a harsh reality and some bitter disappointments.”

However, Alveda C. King, King’s niece and founder of King for America, said the monument missed an opportunity to include references to God in the quotes.

“This missed opportunity to carve God’s Name on the wall still presents another opportunity,” Alveda King said in a statement. “Many people don’t know that Uncle M. L. was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It stands to reason that they have never heard of his devotion to Jesus Christ and his message of God’s agape love. I wasn’t consulted on the design of the site, still I see this as a teaching moment to encourage people to read King’s sermons.”

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