Monday, January 16, 2012
President Obama's Presidential Proclamation on Martin Luther King Day, 2012, includes these words:
At a time when our Nation was sharply divided, Dr. King called on a generation of Americans to be "voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion." His example stirred men and women of all backgrounds to become foot soldiers for justice, and his leadership gave them the courage to refuse the limitations of the day and fight for the prospect of tomorrow. Because these individuals showed the resilience to stand firm in the face of the fiercest resistance, we are the benefactors of an extraordinary legacy of progress.
Today, Dr. King is memorialized on the National Mall where he once spoke, a symbol of how far our Nation has come and a testament to the quiet heroes whose names may never appear in history books, but whose selflessness brought about change few thought possible. Dr. King's memorial reminds us that while the work of realizing his remarkable dream is unending, with persistence, progress is within our reach.
On the MLK memorial itself, the "drum major" quote has been the subject of controversy and is being "corrected." The government sponsored MLK Day of Service continues to include the Drum Major for Service Award, as well as the correct/full "drum major" quote: "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness… We all have the drum major instinct.” Excerpt from The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Drum Major Instinct" sermon, given on February 4, 1968.
For ConLaw scholars, it might also be a good day to (re)read Randall Kennedy's "Martin Luther King's Constitution: A Legal History of the Montgomery Bus Boycott," 98 Yale Law Journal 999 (1989) (available on JSTOR) or Camille Nelson's " The Radical King: Perspectives of One Born in the Shadow of a King," 32 New York University Review of Law & Social Change, 485(2008) (available on ssrn), or view MLK's last speech.
[image: personal collection]