King misquoted

News in Brief

Regular readers will know that PN has taken a keen interest in the story of the $120m “national memorial” statue and garden for US pacifist Martin Luther King Jr, opened in October in Washington DC, USA.

The statue has on its side a quotation from the “drum major” speech given by King two months before his assassination, in which the civil rights leader criticised the egotistical “drum major instinct”, the “desire to lead the parade”.

King said in the speech that, at his funeral, people should not mention his Nobel peace prize; they should say that he “tried to give his life serving others”, that he “tried to love somebody”: “I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.”

He added: “Yes, 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.”

The sculptor and the architect decided to remove “if you want to say”, and to shorten the remainder to: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

Poet Maya Angelou, who worked with King, said the abbreviated quotation made the civil rights leader “look like an arrogant twit”. It is to be changed.  

Topics: Peace abuse