I first heard about the MLK memorial from Tom, who had walked through it during the day. His reaction, underwhelmed. The size seemed imperfect, the location awkward, and the statue unfinished.

So, on our first day of sightseeing, I chose other memorials to visit (limited to walking among the memorials, you have to make choices). I knew I’d visit the MLK memorial, but it was off to the side, across the street from where we were, so I left it for another day.

One night, Scott and Aubrey wanted to visit the mall to see the memorials while they were lighted. We rented a zipcar, since the mall is a good hike from any Metro stop and we didn’t really want them hoofing it through the mall in the dark (I know, I know…being too protective). So, we rented a car, dropped them off, and went to find a place to park. Ended up parking next to the FDR memorial, which I still haven’t seen, and we sat and listened to Christmas music with the windows down, enjoying the surprisingly balmy evening.

Figuring that it was ridiculous to be that close to the monuments and not walk around (my legs were already tired from the day’s hiking), we decided to walk to the MLK memorial.

I have to say. I am certain that the most advantageous first look at this memorial should be at night.

It simply leaps into the senses, in a way that it can’t possibly do in the daytime. It’s kind of poetic when you think about it. Out of the darkness, a hero arises. That’s one way to look at MLK, especially from the perspective of Civil Rights in the United States during his time.

I admit it. I wasn’t certain why he warranted a massive memorial on the mall. I had seen the marble stone at the top of the Lincoln Memorial, marking where he had given his “I Have a Dream” speech, and I thought that was a remarkable memorial in itself. But as I wandered along the walls that embrace the cleft rocks of the MLK memorial and  protect him from behind, I changed my mind. He was the spearhead, the face of Civil Rights, along with Rosa Parks and many others. It has been his fortune to be the physical representation of a societal and spiritual struggle for millions in this country. He gave voice to their dreams. I begin to understand that now.

The inscription on the rock from which he is emerging says it all:

“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

His statue stone is cleft from two stones behind, broken away and set apart, as he himself was in the struggle for inalienable human rights.

His was a dream for the ages, for all peoples. Just as was Lincoln’s dream of a United States of America, under God, indivisible, with justice for all.

Here are a few more photos from the evening’s visit with MLK:

If you plan to be in DC, give yourself a treat and visit the MLK memorial at night. For me, it was enlightening in more ways than one.