Have you seen the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC?

The quote was carved into the side of the statue — "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" — was truncated to accommodate space limitations.

The quote was carved into the side of the statue — "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" — was truncated to accommodate space limitations. Image Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In October 2011 the MLK Memorial was unveiled alongside the Tidal Basin and just blocks from the National Mall. DC was buzzing with excitement over the dedication of the newest memorial to grace the National Mall – but the buzz quickly changed from excited to dubious.

Since its unveiling, the MLK Memorial has received some harsh criticism. The most criticized aspect of the memorial is an abridged quote chiseled into the side of MLK’s likeness. The quote reads: “”I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness”. The quote was pulled from a sermon that King gave at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968.

During this sermon, King said, “There is deep down within all of us an instinct.”. He continued, “It’s a kind of drum major instinct — a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first.”

Towards the end of the sermon King explained how he’d like to be remembered: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

While it sounds perfectly appropriate in its entirety, not too many people were happy with the abbreviated quote.

In August, The Washington Post ran a piece arguing that the paraphrased quote made King sound boastful, and Maya Angelou said the abbreviated quote made King sound like “an arrogant twit.”

Visitors at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in August 2011. Image Credit Amy Ta/NPR

After a lot of opinions were heard,  and the King family agreed the quote should be changed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently instructed the National Park Service to fix the quote.

And now the question of the hour: HOW does one fix something literally set in stone?

Andy Uhl, a stone carver at the National Cathedral, “I think their options are: To reduce the surface back and recarve, or maybe take out the whole section and install it with matching material and then carve that installed panel.” (via NPR.org)

Keep in mind – this was a multi-million dollar project which was years in the making. You’d think a quote set to be chiseled into stone (more permanent than a tattoo, it would seem) would be checked and double checked BEFORE putting chisel to stone.

What do you think about the quote?
Have you seen the MLK memorial?
Thoughts?

– Ann Erling Gofus

Advertisements