Abbreviating a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leads to controversy.
On Tuesday a plan was announced by the National Park Service to remove a controversial inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. As CNN reports,
Initially, plans called for the quote to be corrected. But the original sculptor, Lei Yixin, said removal was the best way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial, the National Park Service said.
The quote that has sparked so much debate is an abbreviated and paraphrased version of a line from one of Dr. King’s many moving sermons. The line in question reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” In 2011 Maya Angelou, the acclaimed poet and author asserted that the paraphrasing made the civil rights leader “appear to be arrogant,” and that “leaving out the ‘if’ changes the meaning” of the phrase. The original words spoken by Dr. King were:
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.
Dr. King’s family echoed the sentiment expressed Ms. Angelou, and has added their support of the removal of the quote. Included in the press release on Tuesday was this statement from Dr. King’s youngest daughter Bernice A. King,
We are grateful that Secretary Salazar’s office and the National Park Service has taken such care to maintain the spirit and appearance of such an important monument to our country’s history and my father’s memory.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a true leader and visionary. It is only right that his words be preserved as they were spoken.