|Photo of MLK Statue in Washington, DC taken this morning by Beth Hundt|
A post on Facebook today by a colleague reminded me of a visit to DC in which I made a stop at the MLK Memorial, a truly magnificent place. As I walked along the site after dark, I spotted the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin, all flood lit and glowing with an alabaster sheen.
King's statue is colossal and is positioned so he looks directly at the Jefferson shrine. A moonlit night added much to the ambient feel of the place and as I walked around the perimeter I read the inscriptions carved into the walls that embrace the space and was moved to tears several times.
I'd like to share the inscriptions with my readers so I've included an entry from Wikipedia that gives some of the background surrounding the inscription followed by the inscriptions themselves. Here it is. Read and be moved.
Fourteen quotes from King's speeches, sermons, and writings are inscribed on the Inscription Wall. The "Council of Historians" created to choose the quotations included Dr. Maya Angelou, Lerone Bennett, Dr. Clayborne Carson, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Marianne Williamson and others, though the memorial's executive architect stated that Maya Angelou did not attend the meetings at which the quotations were selected. According to the official National Park Service brochure for the Memorial, the inscriptions that were chosen "stress four primary messages of Dr. King: justice, democracy, hope, and love."
The earliest quote is from 1955, spoken during the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the latest is from a sermon King delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., four days before he was assassinated. The quotes are not arranged in chronological order, so that no visitor must follow a "defined path" to follow the quotations, instead being able to start reading at any point he or she might choose. Because the main theme of the Memorial is linked to King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, none of the quotations on the Inscription Wall come from that speech.
The selection of quotes was announced at a special event at the National Building Museum on February 9, 2007 (at the same time the identity of the sculptor was revealed). The fourteen quotes on the Inscription Wall are:
"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." (March 31, 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.)
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (1963, Strength to Love)
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." (December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway)
"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." (April 18, 1959, Washington, D.C.)
"I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world." (February 25, 1967, Los Angeles, California)
"If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." (December 24, 1967, Atlanta, Georgia)
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama)
"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits." (December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway)
"It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace." (December 24, 1967, Atlanta, Georgia)
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." (February 25, 1967, Los Angeles, California)
"Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies." (April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, Manhattan, New York)
"We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." (December 5, 1955, Montgomery, Alabama)
"We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama)
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama)
Some of King's words reflected in these quotations are based on other sources, including the Bible, and in one case—"the arc of the moral universe" quote— paraphrases the words of Theodore Parker, an abolitionist and Unitarian minister, who died shortly before the beginning of the Civil War.[