Dr. King Memorial to debut Aug. 22

Get ready for some excitement around the National Mall in coming days.

The long-awaited Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial has a soft debut on Aug. 22, a formal District residents-only viewing on Aug. 23 and an estimated 250,000 coming Aug. 28 for the official dedication featuring President Obama and entertainers.

A quarter million people on a four-acre site near the World War II and FDR Memorials along Independence Ave. and Tidal Basin? That’s going to be interesting. The 250,000 would match the crowd that saw Dr. King’s 1963 “I Had a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King finished that speech while staying at the Willard Hotel.

I’ve been watching the progress of the $120 million memorial for months. Nowadays you see a black screen covering King between the two white marble mountains. It’s even visible from the Jefferson Memorial.

After the big crowds that week, you’ll likely be able to get to the monument with too much difficulty, though like every place else in the area there’s not much nearby parking.

The 30-foot memorial focuses on four themes of Dr. King’s life – democracy, justice, hope, and love using water, stone, and trees. More than a dozen quotes are engraved into the 450-foot inscription wall.

On Aug. 28 – the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech – a concert begins at 10 a.m. The dedication ceremony is 11 a.m. followed by another concert at 2 p.m. Celebrity co-chairs include Jamie Foxx, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young and Rev. Jesse Jackson will also appear.

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