"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits."
–from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1964
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial was designed to evoke a symbolic journey through struggle into hope. To enter the memorial, visitors must pass through a 30-foot boulder, inscribed with the famous words from King's iconic 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech: "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Just beyond the entrance, one wedge of rock distinctly emerges from the boulder—the "Stone of Hope" that stands at the centerpiece of the memorial—a contemplative depiction of King overlooking the Tidal Basin.
Visitors who pass through the "Mountain of Despair" can also view the 450-foot crescent-shaped granite wall that surrounds the central motif, inscribed with quotations by King representing themes of justice, democracy, hope, and love. The quotations span King's career, from his rise to prominence during the 1955 bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, to his last sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., in 1968, just four days before his assassination. The quotes are not displayed in chronological order, however, so that visitors may start reading at any point without following a predetermined path.
The memorial includes 182 cherry trees, complementing the famous collection of trees given as a gift from Japan as a symbol of peace and unity in 1912. Each year, thousands of tourists flock to the National Mall to see these cherry blossoms at their peak; the blooms coincide with the anniversary of King’s assassination on April 4, 1968.
This 2011 tribute to King's legacy is the first major memorial on the National Mall to honor an African American and a leader who was not an American president.