Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today called that controversial inscription on the new MLK Memorial “an area of concern” and signaled that fixing it could be among a list of issues “we’re going to have to go in and deal with” after the Oct. 16 dedication.
“I think one of the most important parts of my job and important mission of Interior is to tell America’s story… and I see MLK and the memorial on the mall as being very much part of our agenda and telling our story,” Salazar told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington.
“There are some outstanding issues we’re going to have to work through,” he said.
Critics say a quotation attributed to King from a sermon at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968 - “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” – was paraphrased and taken out of context. Poet Maya Angelou says it makes the civil rights leader look like an “arrogant twit.” A Washington Post op-ed says the mistake will “demean the memory of a great man.”
King actually said: “”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.”
Salazar, who oversees the National Park Service which manages the memorial, said he doesn’t want the dedication ceremony to be “clouded” by the controversy over the quote or other unresolved issues, which include a $3 million budget shortfall and outstanding construction work to restore surrounding landscape.
“I visited yesterday and looked at the quote and all the other quotes,” he said. “It’s a wonderful memorial, but there are some issues that have to be resolved after we get past the 16th.”