Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial

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Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope

This is the Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial in Washington DC. Of all those memorials on the Mall, this was the most poignant for me.

When travelling around Tennessee last year, I was particularly struck by the hypocrisy and completely arbitrary prejudice that the black community suffered during segregation in a way I’d never fully understood as a schoolchild being taught about the US Civil Rights Movement several thousand miles away.

In 2011, I saw where MLK grew up, preached and spent his final hours before being shot on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis. To come and see his new memorial in Washington DC somehow felt important. As if by immortalising him in stone an oath had been made that no-one must ever let that kind of prejudice ever happen again.

On a wall behind the memorial is a series of his quotes is inscribed, including:

I have the audacity to believe that people’s everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

Oslo, Dec 1967

As someone standing behind me pointed out, 50 years on and this sentiment is echoed in the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and their aim to eradicate poverty by 2015.

A very great man indeed.

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