A new memorial graces Washington DC

Today (hurricane Irene permitting) 48 years after he delivered his momentous ‘I have a dream’ speech, a memorial to Martin Luther King Jnr will be officially unveiled overlooking a peaceful stretch of water in Washington DC. The statue will stand in a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, overlooking the Tidal Basin. The location, of course, is deliberate.  It represents Martin Luther King’s key place in the development of America’s self-understanding.

The memorial stands higher than either of those flanking it, at a massive 30 feet high.  As if pushed forward from the rough stone either side, King himself emerges from the ‘mountain of despair’.  To ensure that visitors understand the connection his own words from his most famous speech are etched on the stone:with this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

Image: cmsimg.detnews

There is no doubt at all that the memorial is both deserved and impressive. However, as a wordsmith constantly in awe of Dr King’s ability to instruct, inspire and challenge through words alone I can’t help but feel that it is a somewhat  pale imitation. The lines etched by his words on many a heart will outlast those etched by any stonemason, surely?

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