Juggling Act

Celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

I think that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be embarrassed by the new monument that just opened in his honor on the Washington Mall, not because it doesn’t have a noble intent, but it is far more showy than the man himself.

But I think he would be honored by this national memorial and urge us not to get stuck in the controversies over the various aspects of its construction but to keep pushing for change and equality. And these days, as our political environment reflects a troubling chaos and anger, we must heed his call to pursue the day when “people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

My 16-year-old daughter and I were in Washington a few days before the memorial officially opened, and in the spirit of those who make pilgrimages to someplace sacred, we found our way to the Tidal Basin and the 30 foot tall statue of King. After having not lived in the Washington area for a few years, I didn’t exactly remember how to get to the Tidal Basin and there were no signs along the way to serve as a guide. I’m hoping the lack of signage that day just means that they hadn’t been put up yet, not that they won’t be put up at all.

But we strolled through the monuments, enjoying the specialness of the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the World War II Memorial. We gazed over at the Jefferson Memorial as walked along the basin under the cherry trees. And when we saw the King monument, both my daughter and I nearly gasped.

Oh, how can I describe the pride. I began talking to my daughter about my memories of King — watching him on the small, black and white television sitting on the dresser in my parent’s bedroom, hearing my parents talk about him over dinner, and crying when I heard that he had been assassinated. I told her about the riots, the pain and anger.

A fence kept us from getting close to the memorial, so we gazed at it along with other people who had made the pilgrimage too.

The memorial is not perfect, and neither was King. But his legacy rightfully deserves to be recognized among Washington’s treasures. I’ll go back to see it during my next visit to Washington. And every other time that I’m in the area.


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