By Special to the Daily World
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Park Service formally welcomed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as America’s 395th national park on Aug. 28 – the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service also emphasized its commitment to working closely with the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Foundation to reschedule the ceremonial dedication planned for Sunday that was unfortunately postponed due to Hurricane Irene.
“Welcoming this memorial to the National Mall honors a heroic man and a critical chapter in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Martin Luther King Jr. mobilized the power of faith and morality to break the chains of oppression that held our nation back. I commend the MLK Foundation and Harry Johnson for their tireless work in making this memorial a reality, so that we may always be reminded of the work that is yet to be done to achieve Dr. King’s dream and a more perfect union.”
“Forty-eight years ago, Dr. King took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and challenged our nation to fulfill his dream of equality for all Americans,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “On the anniversary of that speech, we are proud to add the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the National Park System as a lasting tribute to this American hero. We look forward to working with the MLK Foundation to reschedule the formal dedication and hope that many of the tens of thousands of people who had planned to attend will be able to participate.”
In 1996, Congress authorized Dr. King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, to establish a memorial to the civil rights leader in Washington. The group formed the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation and held a competition for the design. A site along the Tidal Basin of the National Mall was chosen for the memorial.
After 15 years of effort, a granite likeness of Dr. King emerges from the memorial’s Stone of Hope and stands resolutely between iconic monuments to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
“From World War II to Vietnam veterans, from Lincoln to Jefferson and now to King, the memorials and monuments along the National Mall are where millions of visitors every year learn about our history,” said Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. “The National Park Service is honored to serve as the keeper of America’s story, and with this new memorial, to have this incredible venue from which to share the courage of one man and the struggle for civil rights that he led.”
The memorial to Dr. King is part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks and is open to the public. National Park Service rangers provide programs for visitors and answer questions. For more information and photographs, see http://www.nps.gov/mlkm.