MLK memorial to be restored to intention

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A paraphrased quotation engraved on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument will be restored to its complete form, the federal government said on Friday. Article resource: Martin Luther King Memorial quote to be restored.

'Drum major' quote truncates original intention

The memorial was recently dedicated at the National Mall, after which, the surviving King’s family members had a meeting on February 6. This led to the decision to change the “drum major” quotation to the complete quotation to be able to better represent what the leader wanted, as reported by National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The quote as it now stands, carved into the stone near the left shoulder of King's sculpture, reads “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The quotation is paraphrased from a sermon he gave in 1968 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The issue is with the word “if” being left out, as reported by poet Maya Anjelou who spoke after the October 16, 2011 dedication:

"The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit. ... He was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply."

Looking at the quotation

In the announcement, it said the entire quote would be put on the sculpture. The entire quote claims:

“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.”

Decision reached ahead of deadline

The National Parks Service was told on January 14 by Salazar that it had 30 days to choose what it wanted to do with the quotation. It was four days before the deadline when the decision was made.

Dr. King’s life needed dignity, which is why the change was significant, as reported by Salazar:

“President Obama’s dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was a proud moment for our country and a reminder of the continuing relevance of Dr. King’s dream of dignity, respect and justice for all. With a monument so powerful and timeless, it is especially important that all aspects of its words, design and meaning stay true to Dr. King’s life and legacy.”

Salazar was thanked by King’s youngest daughter Bernice King. She said it was about time they “get it right” in the government.

Monument to be swapped out

Jarvis said he hopes that the change will happen before January 13 on Dr. King’s next birthday. The National Parks Service said it will cost a ton of cash to make the change since the entire piece of granite will need to be pulled out and exchanged. Many options for funding are being considered including charitable contributions.

During the design review process, before the sculpture was commissioned, the Council of Historians of the Memorial Foundation and the U.S. Fine Arts Commission approved the entire quote's inclusion. Therefore, no further review is needed.


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