Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Ken Salazar approves final fix on Martin Luther King Memorial -- "if" only

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But coming up with a fix to the flub has taken over a year. In January, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar -- who left his seat as senator from Colorado to join the Barack Obama administration, and last month threatened to punch a reporter who asked him a question about the department's wild-horse policies -- gave the National Park Service thirty days to correct the mangled quote.

The actual quote came from one of King's speeches, sometimes referred to as the "drum major" speech: "If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for peace and righteousness."

But the quote carved into the side of the MLK memorial omitted the word "if" -- giving a new meaning not just to King's original statement, but also the meaning of "chiselers."

Without the "if" that started that sentence, the remaining words made King seem arrogant, critics said; when he set this thirty-day deadline back in January, Salazar said the abbreviated quote was not "an accurate portrayal of what Dr. King was."

But coming up with the solution took more than thirty days, of course -- the memorial is in Washington, after all. Finally, eleven months later, the Interior Department announced yesterday it had a plan. Rather than cut into the granite to put in the complete quote -- and risk damaging the piece, adding insult to the injury to King's reputation -- the fix now calls for removing the offending inscription altogether.

Continue for more about the proposed fix to the Martin Luther King Memorial.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun