WASHINGTON – Martin Luther King Jr. had a tendency to quote other people in his works,Jan Buerger,park ranger for the National Park Service,said in a talk Monday about the civil rights leader.
The quotes King chose,and the five that are inscribed in his memorial,are about justice for all people,Buerger said.
“We’ve got a lot of issues that have come up that have to do with justice,” Buerger said about why she chose the theme of justice for her Martin Luther King Jr. Day discussion.
King is the fourth person who was not president to be honored in a national park in Washington.
Buerger said the quote in King’s memorial that caught her attention was from his 1968 sermon in D.C. “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long,but it bends toward justice.”
She said this quote,chosen by President Barack Obama to be featured in the rug in the Oval Office,is paraphrased from the 19th-century Massachusetts minister and abolitionist Theodore Parker.
King routinely discussed the theme of justice and quoted other people in his speeches. He initially gave credit to those he quoted,Buerger said.
“We’ve kind of lost that,” Buerger said,adding that it’s still important to understand the context of King’s quotes.
People enter the King memorial through the Mountain of Despair,two massive white granite halves,toward the Stone of Hope.
A crescent-shaped wall,behind a 30-foot statue of King,is inscribed with quotations from his works.
In 2013 the park removed the quote: “I was a drum major for justice,peace and righteousness” from the north side of the Stone of Hope after public objections that it was an edit of what King originally said and that it negatively represented him.
The quote has not been replaced.
King’s original quote in his 1968 sermon “The Drum Major Instinct” identified the traits he wanted to be remembered by if he was remembered.
Buerger said when King delivered this sermon he believed he wasn’t going to live much longer.
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