MLK National Memorial

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As one pastor put it, “This is a King among presidents.” A memorial to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was unveiled in Washington this week, the first individual who’s not a president to receive such a tribute on the National Mall. A 30-foot statue lies at the heart of the granite monument that displays words from King’s writings and speeches. The choice of a Chinese sculptor and royalty payments to King’s family drew controversy and complicated the $120 million private fundraising effort. Congress authorized the monument in 1997. Despite the postponement of the memorial’s dedication because of Hurricane Irene, this weekend was still a time of reflection. Here to share his thoughts is the Reverend Dr. Robert Franklin, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, which is also the alma mater of the late civil rights leader. Dr. Franklin, welcome.

REVEREND DR. ROBERT FRANKLIN (President, Morehouse College): Thank you.

DE SAM LAZARO: This unveiling comes at a time of serious political polarization in this country. Do you think that the monument has the potential any way to provide some healing in that divide?

post02-mlkmemorialFRANKLIN: I believe so, and I certainly hope so. Dr. King was a man of healing and reconciliation even in the context of calling for justice. American politics is broken today, and Dr. King’s message, his life, his values and virtues can offer us a strategy for healing what is broken. It means political opponents must never dehumanize each other. They must speak truth to power, but they must also be willing to negotiate as well as confront, and I think the King memorial will be an inspiration and a reminder that that reconciliation is possible in America.

DE SAM LAZARO: What do you think his words would be today in this political environment?

FRANKLIN: Well, that we have to listen. We have to search for common ground, something that Dr. King learned from Howard Thurman and Benjamin Mays at Morehouse College, and that it’s never appropriate to dehumanize or demonize your opponent. We must always recognize their humanity and recognize their self-interest and try to appeal to that. That’s why King was such a genius as a moral leader. He confronted, but he balanced that with negotiation, and today all I hear from so many of our public officials, religious leaders, media commentators is confront, confront and polarize. Dr. King says no, you’ve gone overboard, and there’s another side to balancing this for the common good.

DE SAM LAZARO: One of the points of contention in the debate over this monument has been the whole issue of separation of church and state and the dedication of something to someone who is not—just not even a president but also at his core was a Baptist minister. Talk a little bit about it in that context.

FRANKLIN: Well, you put your finger on a fascinating question, because we’ve grappled for the past decade-and-a-half with the question of church and state and the appropriate presence of religion in our very diverse public life. I think that Dr. King actually offers a refreshing model of how you can be a religious person, a person of faith in the public square. How? Well, he was exceedingly ecumenical and interfaith. He respected the traditions, the texts, the beliefs and practices of other people without ever disrespecting or dismissing or marginalizing them, and although King was exceedingly particular, I mean, as you say, he was a black Baptist preacher from the South, he was also always in search of what’s universal in my particularity, and I think that’s an invitation to all Americans, and when we look at that monument I hope we see King saying I’m looking for common ground, not for the basis for further polarization.

DE SAM LAZARO: Well, Dr. Franklin, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today.

FRANKLIN: Thanks very much.

  • Looneytoonsindville

    This hurricane is a blessing in disguise. Have you seen the statue of MLK? It looks like the Chinese who carved it took a statue of Chairman Mao Zedong and put MLK’s face on it. Can you imagine what MLK, a humble servant of God, would think of a humongous graven image, made by atheistic communists, bearing his likeness? Not likely to be a good fit. Hurricane Irene has given the folks in charge of this fiasco an opportunity to fix the problem before it gets out of hand. For God said, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

  • kingofallclergy

    Party Politics segregates and discriminates. We fuss and fit over a constitution with civil rights and separation of church and state and then we allow a party to form. Thus the evil therein sneaks right back into government. It’s as if we never wrote the document. Abolish the party GOP and DEMocratic. Using the election fund we already have in place let the Senate assign a deputy to oversee the election fund. Candidates will from here forward register to run in elections by surname or name only, no party. A 3 tier or 3 round election period will be declared during the normal election times with a final cap or limit on funds spent. The first tier is when the candidate registers to run for office and from the fund will only get a small amount of money. Once this is spent the receipts will be returned to the deputy for evaluation and if it is reasonably obvious that the candidate is running a legitimate campaign he or she will get the second round of funds-tier 2 in the same manner once the money is spent the receipts will be evaluated by the deputy and if so ordered a 3rd tier [the largest amount possible] will be granted. At the end of the election the remaining funds[if any] will be returned to the election fund. Candidates will be allowed to have a committee or staff of helpers but these will be dissolved after each election. Other nations copy the U.S.A. when they try to form a democracy and the party always ruins it.

  • mae washington

    My very first glimpse of the MLK statue on tv illicited a gasp from me!
    My exact words were< "My goodness; they made him look Asian!"

  • Kim Salvo NYC

    My 11 year old son and I just returned from a fancinating 4-day historical trip to our nation’s capitol. After looking at numerous memorials, portraits and even wax figures of America’s leaders, it was a refreshing, spiritual and inspiring honor to walk around and become part of this memorial; it is an inspiration to any group that faces struggles, especially Americans. From any approach the layout encompasses you and invites you to feel like you’re a part of it. Dr. King’s presence is evolving and moving forward. He has separated himself from the “mountain of hardship” and is breaking though to make his own path so that others may follow—and NO – HE DOES NOT LOOK ASIAN! I didn’t even know who the artist was, but I did not see that association. It’s also nice that Dr. King and President Jefferson can look across at one another knowing that each has done their part to make people get along, even just a little.

  • Joyce

    Kings family should be ashamed of how greedy they have become. This was supose to be an honor for your fathers efforts not a money making venture for your sorry lazy selfs. Your father had a dream, but greed was not one of those!

  • Bryan

    I will upload two photos. ONE is the ACTUAL photo the artist used to make this statue and the other of Dr. King, the Statue and chairman Moa.
    (actual photo used to create the statue–does it look like Dr King?)
    (above is a photo of King, the statue, and Chairman Moa) Does this looks like they overlaid Kings facemask over a Moa statue or am I wrong? The face is not REALLY Dr. Kings.

    Notice the eyes are DEFINITELY narrower, the forehead is broader and squarer (he also gave him a lot of ‘ brow bossing’ that king didn’t have), the upper lip is larger, the coat is classic Stalin/Moa military uniform.

    Communist cubist art always has the men standing tall in uniforms that “blouse out’ at the bottom with large pocket flap. Dr. King didn’t wear this kind of suit. BUT all of Moa’s statues and Stalin’s statues look exactly like this with the military style coats and stern look. THIS artist did the Moa statue in China, it is the artists preferred style. In the original photo, Dr Kings eyes look up in deep thought but in the statue they look menacingly down and to the side. This is not the look of a man who practiced and believed in Civil Disobedience.

    This statue not only doesn’t look like Dr.King but doesn’t capture who he was. This is a statue of a communist dictator not a humble composed man who practiced Civil Disobedience. It teaches NOTHING.