Moments ago, ahead of the 30-day deadline he set on Jan. 14, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his plan to fix the “drum major” quote on the side of the Martin Luther King Memorial's Stone of Hope. It will, he says, contain the entire quotation originally selected by the Council of Historians of the Memorial Foundation:
Yes, 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.
When the monument was unveiled, the quote had been truncated, without National Park Service approval, to “I was a drum major for justice, peace and rightenousness.” This newspaper, along with Martin Luther King III, Maya Angelou and Stephen Colbert, among others, had argued that the abbreviation sounded boastful, exactly opposite of what King intended. His lesson had been: Do not be boastful; do not seek to be the drum major getting the credit, at the front of the line. But if he was going to be praised, at least let it be in a just cause.
“It's the right thing to do, just because it's a monument that's so important for our nation, and it's important that we get it right,” Salazar told the Post.
Salazar said he'd been presented with five options. He said he met for 90 minutes or so on Monday with Dr. King's sister, Christine King Farris; his daughter, Bernice King; and two nieces, and that they all agreed the best fix would be the full quotation.
While members of the Foundation had been skeptical that the granite monument could hold so many words and that a fix would be economically feasible, neither concern seems to have been an obstacle.
Salazar said the cost of replacement — somewhere between $150,000 and $600,000 — will likely be raised from private sources or paid out of a contingency fund set aside by the foundation.
National Parks Director Jon Jarvis said it well: “Visitors 100 years from now will be inspired by his own words, and know how Dr. King’s leadership advanced the cause of civil rights for all Americans.”
And all of the other shallow things will not matter.