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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Do We do a disservice?

by D. Ware (writer), Milton, MA., October 24, 2011

Credit: © Gene Lower/ZUMA Press/Corbis
The ''Stone of Hope'' sculpture of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Are we doing ourselves a disservice when we elevate champions of the past to almost God like status?

On October 16th, thousands of people converged on Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. to attend the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther, Jr. Memorial led by President Obama. To visit the memorial you'll need to locate 1964 Independence Avenue in the nation's capital, the official address of the monument. History buffs will quickly note the connection between the address and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A truly monumental moment but I’ve often wondered if these types of tributes hamper future generation’s attempts to make change? In some circles, it's almost sacrilege to imply that the average person could even emulate, never mind surpass, the achievements of a Dr. King or similar historical giant. With an almost godly status attached to the memory of these individuals, it’s not hard to understand why many feel today's civil rights leaders don't measure up.

It goes without saying that statues and holidays named in honor of great Americans play an important role in our society. These public displays of respect and gratitude allow us to show our appreciation for these historical icons and in the case of Dr. King, provide some closure. But at what cost to future generations are these tributes damaging? When a child believes that the accomplishments of her ancestors are somehow demonstrative of super godlike powers, that same child may set-aside thoughts of making similar contributions to society. I’ve been a teacher for close to twenty years but I still recall with sadness the day one of my middle school students argued that there could “never be another Martin Luther King.” At that time, he had no idea how wrong his statement was.

As the saying goes, “No man is an island unto himself.” With the support of dedicated people and the determination to improve the lives of others, ordinary people can achieve great things. So as we erect statues and rename streets in someone’s honor, we must remember to teach our children about the ordinary men and women behind the godly personas. I can't imagine any greater tribute we can pay to those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.



About the Writer

D. Ware is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Do We do a disservice?

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By TonyBerkman on October 24, 2011 at 07:10 pm

This is an interesting piece of work that raises an important, though I'm certain, not a popular question. Wouldn't it depend on the meaning that we each as individuals give to these "god like" statues? Couldn't one aspire to be "as great a figure as MLK" yet someone else feal the pressure of never being "good enough?"

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By Angie Alaniz on October 24, 2011 at 08:44 pm

Interesting point you bring up. Its one of those things that make you go humm.

I personally don't see any kind of a threat to where it makes the next generation feel they can't live up to that person (whom ever it might be) they are honoring on any particular memorial day. I also think your middle school student was just being a kid and pretty sure he knows nothing of history as MLK was a great man. But we certainly do have some that have done even greater things. Might something like this possibly hinder the next generation by not wanting to accomplish something bigger?

I don't think so. It may spark an interest in our youth to become even greater then the ones that came before us as we now have an entire new set of rules and resources to do so. Do I or have I ever considered them to be men of super godlike powers? That never even crossed my mind. Yet, its an interesting question as I understand its directed towards our kids today as they do deal with pier pressure as well. I do look forward to what others might say on this particular subject.

Thank you for sharing this unique point of view.

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By D. Ware on October 25, 2011 at 08:03 am

You both bring up interesting points and I appreciate your feedback.

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