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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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Memorial to Martin Luther King unveiled in Washington DC

US President Barack Obama addressed the crowd during the ceremonial event, held to dedicate the memorial properly.

About 1.5 million people have visited the statue since August.
About 1.5 million people have visited the statue since August.
Image: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Press Association Images

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE have gathered today to officially open the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC.

US President Barack Obama addressed the crowd on the Mall, stating that Dr. King’s “glorious words” in his famous 1963 “I have a dream speech” sparked a period when barricades began to fall and bigotry started to fade.

“Yes, laws changed. But hearts and minds changed as well,” he said. “America is now more free, more fair and more just.”

He said the preacher – even though he did not have a formal title – “stirred our conscience” and made “our Union more perfect”.

The King monument is the only statue on the Mall not dedicated to a US president or to war. It is also the first to honour a black leader.

The crowd was full of well-known faces, including singers Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, as well as other members of the King family.

King’s older sister, Christine King Farris, said she witnessed a baby become “a great hero to humanity” on that day in 1963 win Washington. She said the memorial will ensure her brother’s legacy will provide a source of inspiration worldwide for generations.

King’s son and daughter, Martin Luther III and Bernice King said their father’s dream is not yet realised. Martin Luther King III said the nation has “lost its soul” when it tolerates vast economic disparities, teen bullying, and having more people of colour in prison than in college.

Following Obama’s speech, Stevie Wonder performed Happy Birthday. Earlier this week he had asked to ‘see’ the statue. He was raised up on a scissor lift and felt the face of the American hero, reports 9News.

-Additional reporting by AP

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