Out Of The Mountain Of Despair, A Stone Of Hope
Since its opening in 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC has served to honor Dr. King’s contributions as a clergyman, activist, and prominent leader towards freedom, justice and opportunity for all. It is the first major memorial along the National Mall to be dedicated to a non-president African-American, and sits on one of the most prestigious sites remaining on the National Mall – between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Located on 1964 Independence Avenue, the Memorial’s address is a direct reference to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in which Dr. King played an important role. Covering four acres, the memorial officially opened to the public after more than two decades of planning, fund-raising and construction.
The original opening ceremony was scheduled for August 28th, the 48th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech that Dr. King delivered in 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but due to Hurricane Irene the opening was postponed until October 16th, the anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March on the National Mall.
The centerpiece of the Memorial is the 30-foot statue of Dr. King, named the “Stone of Hope”, after a line from his “Dream” speech (this article’s title). Dr. King’s statue gazes into the horizon, concentrating on the future and hope for humanity. The sculpture was carved from 159 granite blocks, although they appear as one singular piece. There is also a 450-foot granite panel wall that is inscribed with fourteen quotes from King’s sermons, writings and speeches. According to the official National Park Service brochure, the inscriptions were chosen to highlight the “four primary messages of Dr. King: justice, democracy, hope, and love”. They are not placed on the wall chronologically, so visitors can feel free to walk around and view the memorial at their own discretion – without having to follow a defined path.
Harry E. Johnson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the memorial foundation, posted these words on the memorial’s website to further describe the Memorial’s mission:
“The King Memorial is envisioned as a quiet and peaceful space. Yet drawing from Dr. King’s speeches and using his own rich language, the King Memorial will almost certainly change the heart of every person who visits. Against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, with stunning views of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, the Memorial will be a public sanctuary where future generations of Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, can come to honor Dr. King.”