Issue Of The Week V Fall 2011-2012: The Martin Luther King Memorial: What Does It Mean To America, To You?

October 17, 2011
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On October 16, 2011, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was unveiled. Photo Credit:

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was officially dedicated this past Sunday, October 16, 2011 at the National Mall in Washington, DC. In addition to the 30-foot memorial being erected near that of three U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln among them, the significance is far-reaching. As a caring ordinary citizen, King was motivated to fight for racial, social, economic, and educational equality.

King’s method of redress of any kind of injustice has defined how many groups have sought and fought for change. One has only to witness the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which have spread to cities across America and the globe.

The King Memorial will have fleeting meaning if most of us go back to business as usual and continue to choose to be only spectators of conditions and incidents of inequity, prejudice and blatant discrimination that occur on a daily basis in many aspects of contemporary society.

Erecting bigger-than-life statues and commemorations are one thing. Teaching and living the principles King died for is quite another.

While much progress has been made, there is still a great need to continue to work to achieve better race relations, religious tolerance, social justice, education, and economic parity and to rid our tendency to conduct our daily lives based on erroneous stereotypes.

We can no longer wait to be motivated to act by blatant and ugly reminders — a hanging noose here, an ethnic slur there or some other derogatory graffiti and demeaning behavior. Worse yet until some one is beaten or killed because of how they look, because of their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs.

We also need to be mindful of the less obvious crimes against people that are with us every day through some form or the other — disenfranchisement born of the disparity between race, economic classes, the well educated, and the poorly educated. Someone is denied a job, a home, a loan, a seat in a classroom just because of their color or class.

Like King, there must be many more voices sending an unequivocal and unswerving message: One’s color, one’s ancestry, one’s economic status in life by birth does not automatically make a person either superior or inferior to any other person who may be different.

Imagine if we were able to avoid passing these harmful stereotypes and beliefs of racial hatred to our children. Many destructive and divisive cycles would be broken. In imparting the right lessons and messages to our children, we could be sowing the seeds that could advance human relations by leaps and bounds. Silence is not an option.

Could the societal sea change that is needed, lie with future and younger generations?
Looking a little closer at King’s life could foretell the promise we can place in our youth. King’s concern about human injustice began early in his life.

Most people know of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered during the march on Washington in 1963. But the fire that burned within King’s soul, that led him to dedicate his life toward eradicating social evil and injustice, started long before — nearly 20 years earlier when he traveled to Dublin, Georgia as a senior in high school to deliver “The Negro and the Constitution” in an oratory contest. Perhaps, it was just a flicker then. But as you follow his life through college and the seminary, you see that flicker grow into a flame.

The more inhumanity he saw and heard, the more he could not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. Obviously, adults, whether his parents and others he encountered along the way, implanted and influenced the belief system that governed how he regarded mankind and his life’s work to make things better.

Time and time again, we see how difficult it is for many of us to shake the harmful and false perceptions of others that have been passed from one generation to the next. We must take off the blinders and face how these perceptions perpetuate negative influences generation after generation.

If King had to choose having a statue commemorating his work over us living, teaching and practicing every day the principles he fought and died for, he would much rather we do that.

Then our children can become the teachers of other children. Only then will the principles King lived and died for become our way of life.

What do you think about the work of Martin Luther King? How might it influence your future perceptions and actions?



Martin Luther King's work was extremely important and needs to continue to be taught to the youth. He taught us major life lessons and helped us to understand how race affects people negatively when it should not. He taught as a major lesson in history and his work should not die out. We shall forever continue to follow in his footsteps. He helped to improve life for all minorities and to make this world a place where race should not predetermine anything. I think it is such an important lesson that he worked so hard to get across and we should never disregard it. A statue is nice and shows that he made an important contribution, but it is not enough. It is what he said and did that we need to commemorate and continue on. We need to teach this to the youth who do not see what a great impact his work made.

It has impacted and influenced my perceptions and actions greatly, especially since I am becoming a teacher. I want my students to see and understand all he did. I want them to learn about his work and its impact. I also want my students to learn how to follow in his footsteps or just to keep up what he worked so hard for. I also never judge based on race or predetermine anything for someone. Every is equal and can achieve great things, just give them the opportunity, the chance to do it!

Martin Luther King is a leader whom I have total respect for. I appreciate his strong convictions for social justice for all people no matter their race or ethnicity, and that he chose to live out his beliefs whatever the consequences. His work has opened the eyes of many who have turned a blind eye to racial slurs, demeaning behaviors towards others who are not socially "acceptable" deemed by the dominant group, and has brought about works for justice. I am thankful for Martin Luther King, and for his courage to stand up against the masses and to lead the revolution for justice.

I am thankful for the generation I have been raised in because equality has become more commonplace than before, however I still witness those who wish to exercise actions that promote inequality. On campus I am surrounded daily by different ethnicities and races and I love the camaraderie and community I see when we all come together. I plan to be an advocate of Martin Luther's work, and to pass it down from my generation to the next.

I agree with you that our generation is doing a better job with racism, but I also think a big part of that is where you live. I know in other areas in the south and around the US, there are still extremlly racist people. We are fortunate to be in places where we feel like it is getting more equal.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is an American hero. His commitment to nonviolence and justice exemplify ideals that all humans hold true. His work certainly did not end with his death and this is the mark of a true hero. King did not solve racism in America. He did, however, begin a process towards the eradication of racist practices and prejudices that is still being carried out today. King has exemplified for me a pursuit of justice that seems desirable. His justice involves love, persistence, nonviolence, sacrifice, and commitment. King was able to see the world not only for how he thought it should be, but for how it actually was. He refused to accept the status quo and for this reason, we have made legitimate steps away from racism in this country within the past fifty years.

I have extreme respect for Martin Luther King Jr. and the desire that he had for human kind to respect each other. I admire the fact that he continued to let the flame he had gradually grow and remain patient to the opportunities presented to him and that he was bold enough to speak and stand up for the strong beliefs he had. The passion that he had and how he showed it spoke volumes. When one person is willing to stand up for something they believe in time and time again and not shake makes others wonder what it is that makes them so passionate. Because of his example I will make more of an effort to stand up for what I know and believe is just. I will strive to see people for who they are and their heart.

I wish Dr. King was still around today. Although African-Americans have come far, there is still discrimination in this world. I saw a documentary on Dr. King. He was exhausted and stressed out sometimes but never showed it. He was very ill when he gave his, "I have a dream" speech. Many kids today are unaware of the struggle that African-Americans went through. Some of it has never been included in the history books. I'm thankful for Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and the other civil rights leaders, that fought so hard for equality.

I believe that people need to start instinctively recognizing racism. If people just act on the examples they are told about then racism will eventually be a way of life. if we recognize racism in our everyday lives then it will disappear. I agree that by getting rid of it now that future generations will not face its effects. I believe we must celebrate Martin Luther King and all his hard work in order to keep the fight to ending racism alive.

Today the bar has been set by Dr. King. If you want change, you make change. If you want to protest, nonviolence is what works, while violence only brings more violence. Dr. King not only changed his world with his actions and beliefs, he changed ours as well, which is the entire idea behind honoring him with a statue.
It's unclear to me as to how he would approach today's issues, especially the ones i see that I want to change because I can't imagine him in my own life necessarily, but he created an outline of sorts that focuses on staying true to convictions and having courage in all times.
His house was bombed, his family was threatened, his life was eventually taken, but the idea behind everything he did and said was to have courage so that others will have courage too, because only in unison will anything change.
That's a powerful statement and it gives me sight to see a future I hopefully can change too.

I have been blessed to grow up in a wonderful family with wonderful surronding teaching that their is no difference from one man to another, no matter what their skin color. I have grown up with friends of all colors all my life. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Statue would remind me of how fortunate I am to live in a time after him, and be able to benifit from his doings. I believe as stated in the article that MLK junior would much rather us live by how I was taught and pass it along to my children than see a statue of himself. I take great pride in the fact that I have always lived with the idea that all men are equal and that my parents raised me with that mentality. I will fight for the equality of all skin colors until I am no more.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing figure in our nation's history. Just as other leaders, he expressed his concerns and views toward living in a better country. While his stance was based upon race and discrimination, he is a hero to many. His memorial acts as another reminder of what the United States is based upon and that is natural born leaders and freedom of speech. King appealed to many throughout his life and was an inspirational speaker. I can only hope that his memorial will bring more thought to discrimination and hopefully prevent further accounts.

Martin Luther King's lives works are unprecidented and should be revered by the earth as a whole. Many countries in the world still have the racial wall and it cannot be brought down by a single person. We must stand up as a country and unite and strive to make King's works even more of a reality now. I believe the first step is to bring the fight to the youth of our nation, and show the world that our generation is ready to fight. To do this we need to bring down pop culture, because rap and hip-hop is a perpetuator of the digression of African Americans. God wants us to treat each other as our brothers and sisters and be free of discrimination, we can do that unless we put aside our differences in skin color and instead come together as a family. To the youth of America, we need to strive to be the best people we can be, and educate ourselves and become future leaders and fighters for our countries freedom and equality. Statues and memorials only stand for memories and not beliefs, teachings, and actions. We must quit remembering and start taking on the fight for racial equality.

Martin Luther King's work is inspiring as he portrayed how to fight for social injustice in a healthy and nonviolent way. For some people, regular every day life is a struggle. Therefore, I agree with his argument that God created us all equal and we are all entitled to the same God-given rights and privileges. I think it is great that there is a statue erected in remembrance of MLK and his work. However, like the statue's symbolization and the holiday in which we recognize once a year, I feel that we need to remember his teachings on a daily basis. I also agree with the comment that we need to follow in his footsteps and continue the work that he started. Although people change, a lot of customs and beliefs do not. Some people only know what they have been taught and/or told, and it is up to us to educate ourselves on the many differences in our society and to embrace them as unique characteristics rather than deviance.

Martin Luther King is someone that all people can respect and admire. The passion he had for changing our world is a passing that if all people had, the world would be a different- and better place. Though our world has taken large steps in the right direction, there are still many issues concerning race that affect our society. We shouldn't have to have one person tell us we are living incorrectly for us to wake up to the actualities of the world, again. MLK did that, and left the responsibility to us. We have taken strides, but we must not stop because things have improved. I believe that every new generation is a chance to bring the gaps closer together, and this is true in all issues of our world. Every generation has a chance to build on what the previous generation did, bringing us closer together as people. Because of MLK and people like him, I have a desire to see all people completely equal.

I think it's great that you try to see everyone equally. How do you think our society would act if we had a figure as powerful as Martin Luther King today?

MLK was not only an advocate for equality of all people but he was the epitome of what love is. God has called for us to love our neighbor as our selves; even saying further that without love we are nothing. 1Corinthians 13:4-5 says this: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” MLK not only showed love upon all he encountered, but he taught and preached what love was. His legacy can and only will continue if people like you and me are the voice of equality and love of the future. As mentioned in the excerpt above, we might not be able to change everyone’s mind about the fairness of others (especially if he/she has been taught this as a child), but we can and must affect our youth. The younger generations are the future. Wouldn’t you rather live in a society that has been revamped on the basis of equality for all people or continue assuming that prejudice and discrimination occurs but not enough to actually hurt others? Why assume that something’s going to give, when you can know that you are definitely a part of the change you want to see? That’s what MLK was all about. He did not want to just sit on the sidelines and cheer his fellow sisters and brothers on to victory; he wanted to be directly involved in the ‘game’ and almost the MVP. Not that MLK wanted the recognition, but that he truly wanted to be apart of the revolution and the victory. Like many after him, I too want to help spread the message of love and equality to the generations under me and those above me as well. Start the fire and verbalize what can become a positive chain reaction in our society.

I don't want to say that I don't think MLK deserves a statue--he certainly is iconic enough of a figure that a statue should go without saying--but I am trying to figure out what good it really does, and why now? Who decided to have the statue made almost fifty years after his famous speech?

Again, I am not saying that MLK didn't accomplish a lot, or that he didn't say and do and represent a lot of good and inspirational things, but how much money went into that one statue? Could that have been put to another, more "useful" cause? And I haven't seen the statue so I don't know what kind of historical statement it has, what all is around it to help educate passers-by about equality, tolerance, peace, and love, but if there is going to be a statue of MLK it NEEDS to have some kind of educational aspect to it, otherwise it's just his face, and I doubt MLK would only want his face to last after his own time. Yes, his face does represent everything he fought for symbolically, but he was a teacher and he would want to make sure that his message is made explicit so that he can keep teaching, inspiring, and motivating even now after he is gone.

I also find it interesting that there are statues in a mall. Not that I know anything about shopping or the types of shoppers that go to the National Mall, but even though he is among statues of presidents, how effective is MLK's image and message if it's put in a place meant to foster consumerism, competition, and selfishness? Or maybe it is meant to be in such a location so that it can be counter-cultural? I don't know. In the end I find myself feeling ambivalent about the whole thing.

I had the same reaction when I saw that the statue was in the National Mall. I had an image of this huge statue wedged between a Starbuck’s and a Famous Footwear. I had to look it up online and, while there are some bookstores and gift shops and such, it isn’t exactly a shopping mall, but more of a national park that gets tens of millions of visitors a year. I have to admit, I was pretty relieved about that.

I personally think that most people have at least a little knowledge of Martin Luther King, Jr., hopefully enough to recall that he was a great proponent for equality. Perhaps this statue may serve as a catalyst for starting conversations and inciting research. I’m a little curious also as to why this was done now, but I think that, whatever the motives, this memorial can have beneficial consequences.

I agree with you it is really weird that just now MLK is getting this statue. I also agree with you that it is very strange that they put this statue in a mall. I think alot of it has to do with the African American pride that has come from Obama being president, but I still don't get why the mall was a good place for the statue.

I find that King’s brief mention of the I-It / I-Thou relationship in Letter From Birmingham Jail to be both deceptively simple and profound. MLK wrote that “Segregation . . . substitutes an ‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship.” This concept, originally from the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, describes different ways of experiencing and relating to one another. In the I-It, there is a relationship between people, but it is characterized by objectification. I-Thou is a perfect “mutual, holistic existence of two being.” These two ways of relating to one another are so far apart that is understandable that MLK would describe segregation as “morally wrong and awful.” While the I-Thou relationship cannot be maintained indefinitely, the very thought of having that kind of interaction with another human being is moving and encourages change. Even now, nearly fifty years after Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the Letter, we need his words and the feelings they inspire.

Note: Quotes taken from:

Martin Luther King has set a great example as an inspiring hero. He speech was a tremendous account on his behalf too change the worlds perception on race. His speech has been a huge mark on history for African Americans especially. I believe the article is right on how we need to change our perception so our kids wont get the wrong ideas of how race is major issue and needs too be treated. Our kids our the future and we can make potential stops too all the different racism and stereotyping etc.

I too believe that this change must begin with children. They must be told and taught about race and the way it impacts each persons life. Children must also be taught about the mindset that plagues the U.S. today with white being the 'norm' instead of a race. White children must be taught that they too belong to a race, just like everyone else. If we all focus on passing down to children information about who they truly are, children may find themselves a little less confused about the world when it comes their turn to run this country.

I think we need to inform our youth about race and how a skin type does not make someone inferior or superior to another person. These ideologies are detrimental to the ideas that MLK fought for and should be taught to children that it is no longer okay to judge people by their skin color.

"Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated." Martin Luther King

This article is on point in that it teaches the necessity of changing future generations ideas and beliefs about people who have visible differences. Martin Luther King was a great leader because he was preaching the unity of all people, not just blacks and whites. We learned in cultural diversity that there is no race gene that separates people, we all begin the same, God breathed, and down the line of our creation and similarities comes skin color. The quote above became most apparent to me when I went to Zambia, Africa two summers ago to take part in a camp for AIDS orphans. Not only were my group of kids Africans, they were boys, and they were much younger than me. But, besides the beautiful unity we have in Christ, was our love for sports, specifically soccer. I could not communicate with my boys as well as I would have like but once we started playing the game, we were all the same. It was a cool testament to the Kingdom of God and a perfect example of what King was preaching. He knew we have to spend time with people if we are to know and then love them and a funny things happens, you realize you have much more in common than what you don't. One of the best things people and parents can do is to get their kids involved in ministry in their communities and other places abroad that serve people who don't look or sometimes live like them. I will raise my children this way. I better raise my children this way.
Martin Luther King was, is a hero, someone I would have loved to hang out with!

The placement of a statue of Martin Luther King seems to me a way for the U.S. to continue denying the racism that runs deeply through every aspect of our lives. Personally, I believe that he needs to be recognized with the greats of this country, but I worry the erection of this monument will give many people cause to dismiss the reality of today; that so many of Dr. King's visions are just visions. Simply looking at the education system proves that this country still operates strongly on principles of segregation and racism. How else could the education gap between white students and black students be explained? The systematic oppression Dr. King fought still governs our land and controls our destiny. I feel it is disrespectful to Dr. King that we as a nation can 'honor' him at the very same time we continue to thrive off of the very system he fought against.

I think an important thing to remember when we talk about the message of Dr. King is the lens through which he viewed the world. He was a religious man and was able to understand and call for equality among men because he viewed us all - first and foremost - as human beings united under God. To respect and value others despite economic, physical, cultural, educational, etc. differences requires that we recognize a common factor, something that puts us all on the same playing field. As a spiritual person myself, Dr. King's view matches mine of how social interactions between people should be, but the utopia we yearn for is unattainable unless people are willing to open their eyes to the deeper meaning/purpose of life, unless people are willing to improve their character for someone (God) besides just themselves and their personal gains. Until then, people's lifelong goal will continue to be accessing the material things of this life by any means necessary. But material things are, and always will be, limited...pushing us to compete against each other instead of viewing each other as peers in the same BIG PICTURE struggle.

When I think of Martin Luther King, I think of a man who would stop at nothing to achieve peace and equality for his African American brothers and sisters. I think of a man who used a tactic of peace and nonviolence to try and achieve these goals, and I think of a man who achieved these goals and accomplished them in the face of hatred and bigotry. He was and still is a hero not only to African Americans, but also to many other groups of people. He is the perfect example for the idea that hard work and dedication pay off, and that great things can be accomplished with these traits. The odds were greatly stacked against him and the African Americas he was leading, but in the end he triumphed

I bet Martin Luther King Jr. never could have imagined in his wildest dreams that a memorial would be created just for him in Washington D.C. When I think about what the memorial means to me, I feel both proud and also sad. I feel proud because this was an ordinary man that stood up for what he believed in. He challenged society and social norms. He knew what was happening was not right or just so he challenged it. I wish more people these days had the guts that he did. He was educated in his speeches and was humble and peaceful. If more people were like him, change could begin to happen. I feel sad because he lost his life for his cause. Someone took the life of a man that just wanted all people to be created equal and the black nation would be able to advance. It's sad that someone was so close minded and cruel to steal Dr. King's life mission. However, his death is not in vain because so many changes have occured because of him and so many people have been effected. He definitely deserves to have people remember him in our nation's capital because he was such an influential person in our history.

I think it's amazing to think how before he began participating in the civil rights movement, he was an ordinary individual just like any of us. This is a powerful thought to me, that we each have the power to achieve great things. As lame as it is, this makes me think of the quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

I like the fact that both of you brought up the point that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't a politician or a career activist by trade; he was a clergyman with humble roots - an "ordinary" American, just like anyone else. The difference here, though, is that King made the decision to stand up against oppression and inequality, to raise his voice, and to integrate himself firmly into the Civil Rights Movement. As @UCCS-11F11-12 stated, this is incredible powerful. It proves that a person doesn't need a huge amount of money or an enormous amount of fame to be influential: a person just needs to find the courage to stand up and be heard. And, often, when one person stands up, more people join. Activisim often starts on an individual level, and builds from there.

We all have within us the ability to create a change, and I think King is an amazing example of that. The world would be so very different today if Martin Luther King Jr. had had his dream, but had never dared give that speech.

I think that it is wonderful a monument was constructed of Martin Luther King. But I would much rather have his ideas and his voice be active within our community rather than a monument. Most people will pass by Martin Luther King and remember his first words of his speech, but will they really remember what King preached about and stand up for the equality of all people. We also have to remember not to focus on one group of minorities, but the promotion of equality for all minorities in our society. It is unfortunate that we do not have more leaders like King in our society to promote justice, equality, and goodwill for all people.