The dedication program for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial kicked off Sunday morning with master of ceremonies Roland Martin offering the official welcome to attendees.
The $120 million memorial opened in August to modest crowds of visitors who travelled to Washington despite weather advisories and event cancellations connected to Hurricane Irene. Thousands of visitors have marveled at the 30-foot statue of King despite the lack of formal dedication.
Organizers were worried that the thrill of the dedication was gone because today's event is more modest than had previously been planned.
“There was a significant amount of energy that was put into the original dedication date,” Martin told the Washington Post last week. “It’s no surprise that with the rescheduling, you’re not going to see the same number of commitments. The overall event is downsized. Everything has been scaled back.”
Martin emceed an hour-long “Morning Joy” music program Sunday morning at the site.
Although the event lineup has been slashed considerably, the rescheduled dedication still boasts an impressive list of celebrity guests. President Obama will deliver the keynote address and civil rights leaders such as Julian Bond, Rev. Joseph Lowery, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga), Marian Wright Edelman, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and Rev. Jesse Jackson are scheduled to speak.
Musical performances from Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Holliday are also scheduled, as well as a reading from poet Nikki Giovanni.
The dedication is scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to noon.
(Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)