Reworking Memorial

August 05, 2013

As soon as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened two years ago, criticism erupted about a misquotation on the side of the statue of King. A poor paraphrasing from a speech substantially changed the tone of King's words. Eventually, the National Park Service agreed to have the offending statement removed, a process that started two weeks ago so that it would be fixed before the August celebrations of the 50th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington. Last week I went over to see the progress. Although I expected some scaffolding, I did not expect to see the Memorial so covered up (the photo is one I took of the renovation effort). I felt bad for the tourists who were seeing the memorial for the first time. Several them uttered their disappointment. The memorial is a nice addition to the National Mall, and is particularly beautiful when the cherry trees are blooming in last March or early April (a photo I took from that visit to the Memorial last year is here). Perhaps the Memorial's current status serves as an appropriate reflection on the status of King's work. On a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court earlier this summer gutted a key component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, one of the key pieces of civil rights legislation King helped push. Meanwhile, Congress seems unlikely to come to a bipartisan agreement on fixing the section criticized by the Court's majority, even though the Voting Rights Act was overwhelmingly renewed in 2006 with bipartisan votes in both houses of Congress (including a unanimous vote in the Senate). Thus, the Voting Rights Act will remain in metaphorical scaffolding for much longer and will not reworked before the March on Washington celebrations later this month.

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