Thousands crowded the national mall Sunday for the dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Memorial at the national mall, the same place where King addressed crowds with his famous I Have a Dream speech 48 years before.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. King's family members, and other civil rights figures joined an estimated 50,000 people at the official dedication.
An earthquake and hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that will not be denied, President Obama remarked in the opening line of his speech. Hurricane Irene pushed the dedication day back nearly two months; it was planned to be held on Aug. 28, the anniversary of the Dr. King's famous speech.
The monument is not only in dedication to Dr. King, but to other civil rights activists as well as the countless unknown citizens who mobilized with leaders for peaceful protests.
The monument holds a special meaning for President Obama, who was only six when Dr. King was assassinated. The President placed a signed copy of his inaugural speech inside a time capsule at the Memorial.
He had faith in us, Obama told the crowd. And that is why he belongs on this Mall: Because he saw what we might become.
Occupy Wall Street protests played a central role in many of the speeches. Dr. King's daughter, Bernice, believes her father would support the protests against the large economic divide and unemployment.
I hear my father saying what we are seeing now all across the streets of America and the world is a freedom explosion, said Rev. Bernice King in her dedication speech.
Dr. King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there, said Obama.
The monument was fifteen years in the making; President Clinton signed the Congressional legislation proposing the memorial to honor Dr. King in Washington, DC on Nov. 12, 1996.
At the entry of the monument is a large boulder with a middle section missing, which appears to be pushed to the center of the plaza.
A 30 foot tall statue of King is sculpted out of the missing section. The monument was designed from a line in his 1963 Dream speech: Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.
On the other side, there is an inscription, which King himself suggested when describing the way he wanted to be remembered: I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.
Along the 450 foot crescent-shaped wall of the plaza are 14 different quotes by Dr. King from his short career. The earliest quote was from the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycotts in Alabama, and the latest taken from his last sermon before he was assassinated in 1968.
The monument was created by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. Controversy surrounded the decision to use a Chinese sculptor rather than an African American.
The MLK Memorial is located between those honoring forefathers Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson in what designers call the line of leadership.
In this place he will stand for all time among monuments of those who fathered this nation and those who defended it, President Obama said, a black preacher, no official rank or title, who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideas -- a man who stirred our conscience and thereby helped make our union more perfect.