Katey Lutz Washington D.C.
Thursday, April 18, 2013

Written by Katey Lutz 

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” “The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important,” and “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” are a few well known quotes spoken by a very brave man. Martin Luther King Jr. is an inspiration to us all and he deserves to be commemorated.  

While in DC we saw many monuments, museums, and memorials. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was my favorite memorial. Construction began in December 2009, and it was expected to take twenty months to complete. It is located at West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., southwest of the National Mall. The official address of the monument is 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., which commemorates the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. It opened to the public on August 22, 2011.

The memorial was sculpted by Chinese artist, Lei Yixin. It was designed in China and eventually transported back to America in pieces to be assembled. Chinese stonemasons were flown in specifically for the job. It is made of white granite and stands 30 ft (9.1 m) tall. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is modeled after the quote, "Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope," from his, "I Have a Dream” speech.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial honors Dr. King’s contributions and vision for all to enjoy a life of freedom, opportunity, and justice. “Congress passed a Joint Resolution in 1996 authorizing the construction of the Memorial and a foundation was created to ‘Build the Dream’, raising the estimated $120 million required for the project.”

The statue of Martin Luther King Jr., also known as the “Stone of Hope”, stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the "mountain of despair."As visitors "pass through" the Mountain of Despair on the way to the Stone of Hope, they are symbolically "moving through the struggle as Dr. King did during his life” and as we continue to do today as a nation.

This memorial had no urban legends that I could find. Possibly, it is still too new. However, there is a controversy about one of the quotes on the sculpture. The 10 word inscription was paraphrased so that it reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The original quote is, “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.” Many people do not agree with this quote, because they believe that the omission of the “if” changes the meaning of the quote entirely.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial signifies Dr. King’s vision for all people to enjoy a life of freedom, opportunity, and justice. It signifies that, in a time of despair when our country did not stand together as one, there was still hope in the darkness; “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” People will forever be reminded by how his leadership positively transformed our society and started other social justice movements around the world. Dr. King is the first African-American to be honored with a memorial on the Mall, and it is the only one that does not commemorate a president or a war. Dr. King’s memorial is standing on four acres of land positioned directly between the Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln memorials.  

To me, this memorial signifies everything Dr. King stood for during his life and beyond. It signifies freedom and equality. It reminds me that it may not have been possible for me to have an African American as one of my best friends without the work of Martin Luther King Jr. His statue stands in peaceful defiance of segregation and discrimination. It reminds me that all people are equal. On a side note, it makes me wonder how Dr. King would have handled the controversial issue of homosexuals and their civil rights equality. I like to think that he would support them and believe that “love is love.” It sounds like something he would say.

This memorial was one of my favorites, because Dr. King was and still is a great role model. He was an advocate for a courageous and very dangerous movement, yet he was not afraid to speak his mind. He fought for what he believed in, but did so in a non-violent manner. The memorial was beautiful and majestic. It was peaceful, which fits Dr. King well.

Our trip to Washington DC was an amazing learning experience. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to see all the monuments, memorials, and museums. But most of all, I am glad to have experienced the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and pay tribute to a great man who changed our way of life. 

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