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Interior Secretary Gives National Park Service 30 Days to Correct Quote on MLK Memorial

I don't know if this is the kind of thing that gets any play outside of the Washington, D.C., area, where I live, but here in the nation's capital there has been much discussion about the new Martin Luther King Memorial and the controversial quote that was carved into it.

The original plans for the memorial called for a specific quote from King to be engraved upon it. The quote came from a speech called "The Drum Major Instinct," in which King stated:

"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." 

The Washington Post reports, however, that after the "full, in-context quote" was approved, "the lead architect and the sculptor thought the stone would look better with fewer words. They did the editing themselves, without considering the violence it would do to the quote's meaning." The result of this editing can be seen on the memorial as it was presented to the public:

KING Memorial

(image: Washington Post)

While the edited version of the quote was surely more succinct, it did not go over well with many interested parties and members of the public. The main criticism was that the removal of the "if" and the "you" from the original quote changes the meaning significantly. Vocal critics included Martin Luther King III, the poet Maya Angelou (who worked with King and believes the edited quote makes King seem like "an arrogant twit;" language experts, and, of course Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert Report
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Perhaps the most important critic of the engraved quote is U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose heads the department that is ultimately responsible for U.S. national memorials. Last week, Salazar told The Washington Post that he, too, does not think the quote on the memorial is an accurate portrayal of what King was, and he directed the National Park Service "to consult with the King Memorial Foundation, family members and other interested parties and come up with a more accurate alternative" within 30 days. Salazar explained that the King memorial is a "forever presence" on the Mall and "we have to make sure that we get it right.”

Posted by Bruce Carton on January 17, 2012 at 04:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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