Forty-eight years after his “I Have a Dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial on the Washington National Mall, Martin Luther King, Jr., finally, has his own memorial on the U.S. capital’s hallowed grounds.
The statue and the new monument commemorate the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 60’s that fundamentally changed this country, and it is fitting that president Obama on Sunday will interrupt his vacation and come down to Washington to give the big speech at the inaugural ceremony — for without King, no Obama.
The festivities on Sunday are expected to bring out hundreds of thousands, but yesterday, and continuing this week, the public got a first glance in glorious summer weather of the memorial in white granite and with walls of quotations from King’s many speeches up until that fateful April day in Memphis in 1968.
At the new memorial, Martin Luther King is surrounded by America’s history and its former leaders. Carved out from a white “stone of hope” by the Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, King looks out over the Japanese cherry trees and the Tidal Basin where he, on the other side, can see the memorial to Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president and author of the Declaration of Independence — “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” Glancing to his left is the tall George Washington monument, the nation’s first president. Over to the right, under some shady trees, lies the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial. And right behind King is the Lincoln memorial, from which King on August 28, 1963 spoke so unforgettably about his dream.
Martin Luther King is the first African American with a statue on Washington’s National Mall. It’s about time, and you could sense and hear that from many of those waiting, of all races, in the bright sun to view the memorial and read its important messages of peace and non-violence. The King memorial is an important addition to the National Mall.