A necessary postponement

A necessary postponement

August 27th, 2011 in Opinion Times

Postponement of Sunday's planned dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is disappointing, but altogether proper given the likelihood, that heavy rains and high winds from Hurricane would strike the capital at that time. Cancellation of the ceremony, however, can not diminish the importance of the man or the appropriateness of placing a monument to the civil rights leader in such a prominent place.

Sunday certainly would have been an appropriate time to dedicate the sculpture. It is the 48th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream Speech." Still, organizers of the event were right to cancel the event that was expected to draw about 250,000 people to the memorial located on a 4-acre waterfront in the capital. There's no need to risk the safety of even a small number of people when extremely dangerous weather is forecast.

The dedication likely will be rescheduled in September or October, officials say. A permit for a new date must be obtained from the National Park Service, but that is not expected to be a problem.

While the dedication and events surrounding it were the culmination of the years-long process to design and erect the monument, the postponement does not mean it will not be accessible to the public. Indeed, it has been open to view since Monday and, weather permitting, it will be open today.

The memorial is the first major monument to a black American on the Mall. Its centerpiece is a 30-foot sculpture of King looking to the horizon and seemingly emerging from a stone carved from a mountain. The memorial also includes a 450-foot long wall of granite that is inscribed with 14 excerpts from King's sermons and public addresses. The memorial landscaping includes American elm trees, Yoshino cherry trees, liriope plants, English yew, jasmine and sumac.

There are those who still question the need to honor King. They protested the creation of a national holiday in his name and they've railed against the memorial in Washington. Their arguments are narrow-minded and unconvincing.

King's vision of an America where people of all races and creeds enjoyed freedom and equality and where all received the equal justice under law provided in the nation's founding documents galvanized the civil rights struggle. His determination that those who heeded his call refuse to engage in violence to promote their cause struck a responsive chord and prompted wholesale changes in American society. That certainly is worthy of the honor the installation of a monument on the National Mall bestows on the man and his life's work.

Still, much remains to be done if all Americans are to enjoy the freedom and justice so memorably advocated by King. The memorial that carries his name is a reminder that the work his words and acts inspired must be continued if his admirable goals are to be reached.