Members of King’s family stood beside the towering 30-foot statue of him as crowds sang “Happy Birthday” at a ceremony Sunday.
“We’re celebrating the best of what we are, but also what we must become, knowing that we’ve not arrived there yet,” Martin Luther King III said.
The civil rights leader’s son said his father would have turned 83 Sunday, if he had survived the 1968 shooting that killed him.
On his last birthday, in January 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was planning a “poor people’s campaign” to bring together Americans from all walks of life to demand “decent jobs with decent pay,” his son said.
“He did not live to see that come to fruition, and so, 44 years later, we’re still challenging our nation, particularly in light of the fact that there’s so much poverty rampant in this nation,” Martin Luther King III said.
Among the many visitors at the memorial was Bill Janocha, from Stamford, Connecticut, who had traveled to Washington with a Boy Scout troop.
“He brought beautiful things to our country,” he said about the elder King. “He … was a monument … so all the tributes that we can give him are certainly just.”