Weekly Columns

Honoring an Icon

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of Week of October 24, 2011

Oct 24 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a humble public servant who dedicated his life to pursing justice and equality for all people. His efforts for civil rights and the attention to this important cause was a turning point in the history of our country.

Dr. King had a profound impact on my generation. Many people remember reading about his efforts in the newspapers, listening to his speeches on the radio and watching his nonviolent protests unfold on the nightly news. The images of this era are forever etched in our memories. There are only a few individuals in our nation’s history that everyone agrees made this country a better place. Dr. King was one of them.

We celebrate Dr. King’s vision and legacy every year on the third Monday in January. Now, we’re honoring his contributions with a memorial in our nation’s capital. This long-sought memorial honors Dr. King and the nonviolent struggle he led for civil rights in a fitting tribute that symbolizes everything this civil rights leader stood for. Using his words from his impassioned sermons and inspiring speeches, the memorial is a simple reflection of the difficult task that Dr. King faced head-on.

First proposed in the early 1980s by a group of members from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, of which Dr. King was an initiated member, it took years to achieve. The project received Congressional approval for a place on the National Mall in the late-90s.

Now, nearly three decades after the initial proposal, this newest addition to the National Mall sits at 1964 Independence Avenue, a reference to the Civil Right’s Act of 1964 which Dr. King was influential in helping accomplish. This monument overlooks the Tidal Basin and is in good company, surrounded by memorials to some of our nation’s most influential leaders. Creating a visual ‘line of leadership,’ the monument is situated on a straight line between the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the Jefferson Memorial.

In August thousands of people came to Washington for the unveiling and dedication of the memorial that also commemorated the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s famous speech. Unfortunately, it was the same weekend Hurricane Irene barreled down on the East Coast. In the true spirit of Dr. King, “this day would not be denied” as President Obama said in his speech dedicating the memorial in mid-October.

Dr. King’s leadership, perseverance and inspiration helped lay the foundation that led our nation to elect its first African American President. His legacy and vision lives on as his work and tireless advocacy inspire us today and will continue to do so for future generations.