"I know we will overcome," Obama proclaimed, standing the 30-foot granite monument to King on the National Mall. "I know this," the president said, "because of the man towering over us."
Obama and his wife, Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, joined a host of civil rights figures for the dedication on the sun-splashed Mall. Designed as what King described as a stone of hope hewn from a mountain of despair, the memorial is the first to a black man on the National Mall and its parks.
"He had faith in us," said Obama, who was 6 when King was assassinated in 1968. Obama told the crowd, "And that is why he belongs on this Mall: Because he saw what we might become."
The dedication has special meaning for the Obamas. The president credits King with paving his way to the White House. Before his remarks, he left signed copies of his inaugural speech and 2008 convention address in a time capsule at the monument site. The first couple and daughters Malia and Sasha made a more private visit to the site on Friday night, before the crowds and the cameras arrived.
In his talk, he focused on King's broad themes - equality, justice and peaceful resistance - as the nation confronts, 48 years later, some of the same issues of war, an economic crisis and a lingering distrust of government in some quarters.WATCH: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedicated in DC - BCNN1