Nightly News   |  October 16, 2011

Celebrating King's return to the Mall

The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial was dedicated on the National Mall Sunday with speeches by civil rights leaders, King's children and the president. NBC's Mike Viqueira reports.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: In Washington today it was as President Obama described it, a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. 's return to the National Mall . Today in the shadow of the place he delivered his famous " I Have a Dream " speech 48 years ago, a statue and national monument honoring Dr. King was formally dedicated, the first non-president and African-American to be memorialized there. The ceremony came almost two months after the original dedication event was postponed by Hurricane Irene . NBC 's Mike Viqueira has our report.

MIKE VIQUEIRA reporting: Today it was picture perfect. The first African-American president and his family touring the first memorial to an African-American in a place, the National Mall , where until now only presidents had monuments. Moments later, Mr. Obama spoke to an enormous crowd.

President BARACK OBAMA: And that is why he belongs on this Mall because he saw what we might become.

VIQUEIRA: On a day of music, reverence and reflection, those who knew and marched with Dr. King, many themselves now icons of the civil rights movement , spoke of the man and his legacy.

Representative JOHN LEWIS (Democrat, Georgia): Martin Luther King Jr . must be looked upon as one of the founding fathers of the new America .

VIQUEIRA: The new site is steps away from the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his seminal " I Have a Dream " speech in 1963 .

Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr . With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

VIQUEIRA: That line is the inspiration for the memorial's design. The mountain, a large granite block. The stone of hope cut from its center and drawn to the horizon bearing the sculptured likeness of Dr. King.

Mr. ANDREW YOUNG (Former US Ambassador to the United Nations): He was always getting upset with tall people who looked down on him. Now he's 30 feet tall looking down on everybody.

VIQUEIRA: It was Dr. King's own children who made the connection between their father's struggle and today. For all the joy and celebration of this day, it was the themes of Dr. King's career of equality and justice that speaker after speaker kept coming back to.

Ms. BERNICE KING (Martin Luther King Jr.'s Daughter): I hear my father saying what we are seeing now all across the streets of America and the world is a freedom explosion.

Mr. MARTIN LUTHER KING III (Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Son): The young people of the Occupy Movement all over this country and throughout the world are seeking justice.

VIQUEIRA: It was a day of inspiration and a reminder from leaders past and present the work of Martin Luther King is not yet done. Mike Viqueira, NBC News, Washington.