Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK (1929-1968)

Misquoted Inspiration

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Dozens of students from an elementary school in Washington took turns Friday reciting [the Rev. Martin Luther] King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

“‘We are humbled to be here today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the enduring legacy of his vision for a nation united by respect, integrity and justice,’ said Watkins Elementary School assistant principal Suriya Douglas Williams. ‘Our fifth-graders have studied and prepared diligently to share Dr. King’s message with you, a message which still resonates today, nearly five decades after he first delivered it.’” (CNN)

But King is misquoted on his new 30-foot “Stone of Hope” memorial on the National Mall, by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin.

“There’s a quote carved into the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall: ‘I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness,’” NPR’s Scott Simon said.

“Except, as poet Maya Angelou pointed out this week, it’s not a quote. It’s a concentrated paraphrase that takes a word here and there from a speech that begins with Dr. King saying that he didn't wanted to be lauded, but . . . ‘If you want to say that I was a drum major,’ he began, ‘say that I was a drum major for justice ...’

“Ms. Angelou, a consultant to the memorial, said the words as chiseled, ‘makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit. . . . The ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely.’

“The memorial’s chief architect told NPR that the quote was ‘a paraphrase of the original statement based on design constraints.’ Meaning, I suppose, ‘Hey, there’s only so much room on the wall.’” (Scott Simon, National Public Radio, Sept. 3, 2011)

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week gave the Park Service 30 days to fix the misquotation, saying that in his experience, things a more likely to get done when there’s a deadline.

More (complete) quotes from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), who would have been 83 yesterday:

• “Curtailment of free speech is rationalized on grounds that a more compelling American tradition forbids criticism of the government when the nation is at war.... Nothing can be more destructive of our fundamental democratic traditions than the vicious effort to silence dissenters.”

• “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

• “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verbs agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

• “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

• “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

• “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

• Editorial Comment: How would the world be different today without the assassinations of the 1960s? What would Martin, John and Bobby have done?


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