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Visitors Admire Martin Luther King Memorial

  • Mariama Diallo

At the age of 34, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. captivated a nation with his “I have a Dream” speech. At 35, he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Four years later, he was assassinated. But his legacy will live on as the nation’s capital gets ready to officially dedicate a memorial to him on the National Mall. On Sunday, the nation dedicates that memorial, more than a month after a hurricane forced its delay. Mariama Diallo has more.

This visitor is talking about the newest monument on Washington’s national mall. The 9-meter tall statue is a tribute to the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The memorial includes a granite wall engraved with quotes from King’s various speeches and writings. Patrice Moore is from Ohio. She brought her mother, Virginia Allen, to Washington for her mom's 80th birthday.

“It’s so intense," said Patrice Moore. "It just reflects who he is. The size of it speaks of the size of the man. He actually passed away on my birthday, my 10th birthday. I thought he was a king. As I grew older and learned more about him, I would still think of him as a king.”

“I think it’s just fabulous, said Virginia Allen. "The wording and everything. It couldn’t be a better tribute to him.”

People come from all over the country to see the memorial.

“I started thinking about where my family came from and how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go," said Arthur Garner from Michigan. "Making sure we continue to live his dream."

“It’s just awesome to look at," said rita Durst from Kentucky. "If you go, you can stand and look up. It just reminds you what an amazing man MLK was.”

Dr. King is the first non-president to have a memorial on the Mall. Emmanual Cleaver, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, says that speaks to his stature in American History.

“Martin Luther King joined a group of Americans who are held in the greatest esteem for their contributions to the country: from Abraham Lincoln to George Washington, to Jefferson," said Cleaver. "And that says something about where a nation has travelled over the past 40 or 50 years.”

Though the overall reviews have been positive, the monument has also created controversy. Critics - among them well-known author and poet Maya Angelou - say that one of King's quotes has been shortened in a way that some feel presents it out of context.

Some visitors feel it makes little difference, but others say there is room for correction.

“Yeah it could’ve been several lines longer but it still has the same meaning and maybe it’ll give people an opportunity to go seek out the entire quote as well," said Moore.

“I think there is room in the monument to address that," said Chris Wilson.

The U.S. Interior Department says it will address the issue after the official dedication on Sunday.