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One Man's Moment With Martin Luther King Jr.

SCOTT SIMON, host: President Obama had been scheduled to dedicate the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall tomorrow, then a hurricane named Irene put that on hold for a few weeks. This morning, that hurricane made landfall in North Carolina as a category 1 storm. Irene is expected to have a major impact along the East Coast with the brunt of the storm arriving in New York and New England tonight into tomorrow. But despite the storm, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial will be open. It was unveiled on Monday, and that afternoon NPR's Ari Shapiro visited the site and met this man.

NATE MASTERS: My name is Nate Masters. I'm 63 years old and I'm retired.

ARI SHAPIRO: And where do you live?

MASTERS: I live in Greenbelt, Maryland. I was here in '63. I was at the I Have a Dream speech, and I happened to be there. And I was sitting there looking on the wall. All I'm trying to do is keep tears not coming down, you understand? We have a memorial on the Mall now for a black man.

SHAPIRO: And a black president of the United States dedicating it.

MASTERS: We don't doubt that. We don't miss that. You know, I'm on the downside of life, I always say. You know, I'd probably only live to be 100 or 102 and it's something to see. You know, I feel like my great-grandmother who told me her grandmother told her that she seen slaves come up the road up in Jamestown, up in Virginia; that her great-grandmother was in the cotton fields and seen the slaves coming up the road. So, that's a long way. That's a long way. So, I'm thankful for life today. And I'm proud of this. I'm proud of this man and the man that's in the White House and so many other men that I know who worked hard to make change for mankind. And so that's it for me.

SHAPIRO: I got to tell you, hearing your story and seeing this through the eyes of your great-grandparents, it's remarkable. It's amazing.

MASTERS: You live long enough, son, you're going to have some stories too, I assure you. That's the way this thing is, you understand? We have stories. If we make it through the day, you understand, and rejoice in the morning, we'll make it, you know, peace in that day. It's not hard, life is not hard. It's just a little troublesome sometimes, you know? Just make it through the day, that's all.

SIMON: Sixty-three-year-old Nate Masters of Greenbelt, Maryland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.