Roland S. Martin: MLK Is Worthy of a National Monument

It’s only fitting that during the week we were to dedicate the memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an earthquake would hit the region and the entire east coast would be bracing itself for a hurricane. When we think about the enormity of Dr. King’s work — work for which he gave his life — as well as the efforts of the many folks involved in the Civil Rights Movement, it’s plain to see that their actions struck at this nation’s core with the ferocity of nature’s force.

At Thursday’s MLK Memorial Foundation luncheon, which honored the veterans of the movement, former Congressman Bill Gray said the Civil Rights Movement was America’s third revolution, following the American Revolution and the Civil War. But some critics of the King memorial claim that because he wasn’t a president, he doesn’t deserve such an honor on the National Mall. That isn’t so, and we should forever be thankful for Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., King’s fraternity — and mine — for leading the effort over the last 25 years to making this memorial happen.

It’s important to understand that King is vital to this nation’s history, and thus he belongs on the National Mall. Across the tidal basin is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which honors the man who articulated the vision of America. To the left sits the monument of George Washington, who led the nation in the fight to establish America.

Behind the King monument is the Lincoln Monument, dedicated to the man who kept America from tearing itself apart.

But out of all of these men, it took a King to force America to live up to its ideals. Americans loved to recite the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but for many, those were simply hollow words. Americans really didn’t understand what it meant to be an American, until King and many domestics, postal workers, day laborers, doctors and lawyers forced the nation to make it happen.

So when Americans now travel to the nation’s capital, they can pay homage to a great man who was serious about his work, serious about the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised and serious about making America a better — and freer — place.

The King Memorial, while it bears his name, really represents freedom fighters. What should inspire all who see it is that no matter your station in life, you can be a difference-maker. Dr. King was just 25 when he was drafted into the movement. If there is something in your community that needs to be addressed, do it. Don’t wait. Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t pass the buck. Just be willing to serve and care — and do it out of love and compassion.

Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at