The Martin Luther King Memorial dedication took place today… finally. Hurricane Irene kept throngs at bay for the original dedication date. But, the skies have cleared and the sun is tempered by a cool breeze today, and its a perfect day to gaze at the absolutely monumental facade of one of the most effective leaders of our time.
Being a DC-area native, I’m too experienced (read: old) to want to venture into the city for any national event short of total revolution, but I keep involved in a number of ways. In fact, on Friday night, my husband and I jumped in the car and went down to the memorial. This is something a lot of people don’t think to do around here because it seems like the memorials would be closed after dark, right? They’re not.
They are lit, with dim elegance, and they carry a different energy, a dignity, that is not as evident when daytime busloads of preteens envelope every DC site, chasing each other around, threatening wet willies. [Don’t get me wrong – there will be a busload or two of preteens even at night, and they absolutely should be there: reading the words of past leaders and breathing the air of gratitude that we all breathe at those sites, and no one belongs there less than anyone else… but its just much less distracting at night.]
The downside to night viewing is I’m a terrible photographer (starting with the problem of never remembering to bring my camera anywhere), and nighttime photography is tricky. For those with talent & aptitude, nighttime can be a backdrop for awe-inspiring photographs.
It doesn’t stop me from snapping some pics with my phone and hoping for lucid representations of the real thing.
Martin Luther King Memorial is massive, and beautiful. It is engraved and enveloped with many of his most inspiring quotes and teachings. It reminds me that he was a philosopher and a teacher – he was not just speaking to his opponents, or to his supporters, for that matter. He was speaking to the higher intellect of the human mind. And he will awaken yours’, once again, when you read his words inscribed on the memorial walls.
At the memorial, King is emerging from a section of a mountain, carved out of stone. Observers don’t even reach his knee when standing next to him. His face is unyielding. His arms crossed. His gaze stares in the direction, across the water, to the unmistakable dome of the Jefferson Memorial. It is a beautiful sight, and a beautiful site.
Leaving the King Memorial through the main entrance, you’ll notice a mini-dome, across the street, tucked in the woods. Most people don’t know this is the DC War Memorial, and it lists 499 DC citizens lost in World War 1, and honors the 26,000 DC citizens who served. It is the first memorial that was built in this park, and it is the only local memorial on the entire National Mall. For years, it was unkempt and unlit. I notice that it is now looking renewed and proud, standing so near to King’s Memorial, it must have gotten a little attention too. I used to sit on its’ steps and sketch passersby when I was a youth, barely visible in the overgrown shrubs.
I have over time, come to appreciate the lasting presence of many of these monuments on the grounds of the government. King’s Memorial has only been missing from there until now. Hopefully, as we stray and realign, and stray and realign, in the ebb and flow of our country’s growth, we’ll have King’s words to help us evolve.
It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace, and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.
Alyssa works at multiple MOMs locations.
Take a look at the Drum Major’s Institute follow up conversation. It was really inspiring.
We Marched With Martin