King Memorial Quote Flap Continues

Opposed to a newly announced change, the memorial foundation says it wasn't even at the table.

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The design impact of putting the full quote would be to change the size of the letters. Our artists of record -- not only the sculptor himself, Lei Yixin, but Nick Benson, the engraver -- felt that the font size should approximately match the font on the other side that says, "Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope." With the two lines that we want to add, we are still able to retain the size of the font. But with this full quote the Park Service is talking about, they will have to reduce the size of the font considerably.

TR: After Secretary Salazar ordered a correction last month, did you present your proposal to the National Park Service? 

EJ: Yes, we did. They said we were going to have a meeting with a committee that they were pulling together and that we would discuss it. The committee met, from what we read in the paper, and had conversations subsequent to that. But we were not invited. We found out about their decision through the press.

EJ: That is the bewildering position that I have been struggling with for the last couple of days. We are the proponents for the memorial. The foundation is the organization to which Congress authorized building the memorial in honor of Dr. King.

They did not give that authority to the Park Service. They gave it to Alpha Phi Alpha, and Alpha Phi Alpha formed this foundation. So any proposed change of that nature should come through the organization itself.

I think it also begs the question of whether or not we're infringing upon the artistic rights of Lei Yixin by changing something on an art object, designed by him, without getting his blessing or viewpoint on what is being proposed. It actually represents his work, as opposed to the artwork of the National Park Service.

TR: How did this conflict happen in the first place? In your years of planning, didn't all concerned parties know that the abbreviated quote would be on the memorial well before it was carved? 

EJ: You're raising an issue without looking at it in perspective. The King family and the Park Service saw this particular quote many times. Like the majority of Americans who come and visit this memorial every day, they felt that the statement captures the essence of how Dr. King said he wanted to be remembered.

It was only when an editorial from the Washington Post called that particular line into question, from that reporter's point of view, did the views of those who had seen it many times change. Prior to that, it was all accepted by everyone. I take exception to how one individual can change a course of action that had already been reviewed and accepted.

TR: But do you understand the criticism over editing Dr. King's words, and how it could be seen as changing the spirit in which they were originally said?