I had anticipated attending the formal dedication of the Martin Luther King ceremony on August 28th for months when my excitement had a crash landing with the news that the dedication had been postponed due to Hurricane Irene. As with most storms, this one held a silver lining for me, an unscripted, unique, intimate opportunity to meet Dr. King in his new outdoor cathedral on the shores of the tidal basin.
Since winning reserve standing area tickets through an on-line lottery, I’d kept up to date on details of the event. I knew of the monument’s location on the tidal basin and its strategic positioning in relation to the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington Monuments. I had seen pictures of the main statue and was aware the site was consciously planned to incorporate elements of nature: trees, water, and stone.
As I neared entrance to the National Mall, I saw the Lincoln Memorial, amazed by the mass of people on the stairs of the monument until I realized the crowd was focused on an African American man reenacting recitation of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
He no doubt was standing on or near the spot King had stood 48 years before when King delivered that iconic speech to the quarter million integrated protest marchers who had gathered on that day. As I listened to the immortal speech, I shot pictures of a somber Lincoln seated in his dark, enclosed temple with a direct line of sight down the mall to the Washington Monument and the Capitol beyond. I understood why Dr. King had spoken from this place–the place where the principles of freedom, equality, and unity are enshrined as the legacy of Lincoln. Ideals that Dr. King reminded the country were promised yet not delivered.
I walked up the pathway leading into the monument site and entered Dr. King’s new pulpit through the open gateway of the Mountain of Despair. What hit me first was the joyous, awestruck energy of the people already engaged with the site. I scanned the smiling faces, people taking pictures, with eyes focused intently, studying the centerpiece of the site, a white granite 30 foot statue of DR. KING emerging from the Stone of HOPE, standing proud, determined, and strong.
For the next half hour, I watched the faces of the others with whom I shared this sacred moment. There was a sense of unity, awareness of this being hallowed ground. Smiles and looks of amazement were shared between strangers. It was a relaxed, comfortable congregation representing a cross section of humanity. All ethnicities, ages, and nationalities were present to explore the new monument created to honor the life of this man.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a powerful man, who used his God-given voice to confront the breech of promise that all men were guaranteed “unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He led a multiracial movement that challenged the status quo in America that led to fundamental change in human rights. He is a hero to all races and all of humanity.