Hurricane Delays Dedication of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The approach of Hurricane Irene forced organizers to scrap plans for an Aug. 28 dedication of a memorial to slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington.

The formal dedication will instead take place sometime in September or October, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation said on its website. The ceremony had been intended to coincide with the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.

While the memorial has been open to the public since Aug. 22, the foundation planned the formal dedication as the cap to a week of ceremonies devoted to King. President Barack Obama was slated to speak.

The new memorial stands at the Tidal Basin, between monuments honoring former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that King gave his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, envisioning a land free of racial prejudice and segregation.

Obama, 50, the nation’s first black president, has drawn on King for inspiration. He accepted the Democratic nomination for president on the 45th anniversary of King’s Washington speech and, on the campaign trail, appealed to voters using King’s phrase, “the fierce urgency of now.”

Organizers already were forced to move two events because of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23 in Virginia that shook Washington and much of the East Coast.

A formal dinner on Aug. 24 was moved to the Washington Convention Center after the original site, the National Building Museum, sustained damage in the earthquake. A prayer service scheduled for tomorrow at the National Cathedral, where three of four pinnacles on its central tower broke during the tremor, will instead take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“In the words of Dr. King, “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” Harry Johnson Sr., the foundation president, said in a statement announcing the postponement of the dedication.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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