Quote on MLK memorial to be changed soon

People visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, on the 44th anniversary of King\'s assassination, in Washington, on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Plans to change a quote carved on the most recognizable part of the Martin Luther King Junior National Memorial in D.C. are moving ahead.

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” says the inscription on the side of the 30-foot tall granite Stone of Hope bearing King’s likeness.

But it’s a paraphrase of a longer quote by Dr. King which reads: “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.”

Following complaints about the shortening from critics, including poet Maya Angelou, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in February plans to replace the paraphrase with the full quote.

“We met with the (National) Park Service just last week,” Harry Johnson, head of the memorial’s foundation, says. “We’re going to bring everybody back to the table again to see how it can be done so we can move forward at the Secretary’s request.”

Johnson says the process is moving along fairly quickly.

“The Secretary says he wants it done within this year,” he adds.

WTOP asked Johnson if he knows exactly how the current inscription will be replaced with another.

“That’s above my pay grade, I don’t know,” he says. “That’s why we have to bring in some architects and some engineers to tell us what can and cannot happen, and once we hear from them then we can make an intelligent decision on how does the full quote go on there, if it’s a smaller font or what happens. But we have to wait and see their expertise on the matter.”

He expects several more meetings to take place before a decision is made on how and when the quote can be replaced.

It’s not clear how much the work will cost, but the National Park Service may ask for private donations to cover it.

The $120 million memorial opened to the public in August of last year.

The Associated Press contribute to this report. Follow Michelle and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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