Washington: Tourists and Washingtonians were
getting their first up-close look on Monday at the memorial to the
US civil rights leader Rev Martin Luther King Jr.
The site was set to open without fanfare to kick off a
week of celebrations ahead of Sunday`s official dedication.
The memorial sits on the National Mall between memorials
honouring Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. It
includes a 9-metre-tall sculpture of King and a 137-meter-long
granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from his speeches.
The sheer size of the sculpture of King sets it apart
from nearby statues of Jefferson and Lincoln, which are both
about 6 meters tall, though inside larger monuments.
A panel of scholars chose the engraved quotations from
speeches by King in Atlanta, New York, Washington, Los Angeles
and Montgomery, Alabama, as well as from King`s books and his
letter from a Birmingham, Alabama, jail.
One of the stone engravings reads: "We shall overcome
because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends
The site will be surrounded with cherry trees that will
blossom in pink and white in the spring.
Sunday`s dedication ceremony will mark the 48th
anniversary of the March on Washington and King`s famous "I
Have a Dream" speech. President Barack Obama, the first black
US president, is scheduled to speak at the dedication.
The Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin, said he wanted the memorial
to be a visual representation of the ideals King spoke of in
his "I Have a Dream" speech.
"His dream is very universal. It`s a dream of equality,"
Lei said through his son, who translated from Mandarin. "He
went to jail. He had been beaten, and he sacrificed his life
for his dream. And now his dream comes true."
The sculpture depicts King with a stern expression,
wearing a jacket and tie, his arms folded and clutching papers
in his left hand. Lei said through his son that "you can see
the hope" in King`s face, but that his serious demeanour also
indicates that "he`s thinking."