I got a chance to see the new Martin Luther King memorial today. Lucky me--allowed to walk in and see it a bit before the "official" opening thins week-end...the official opening that's scheduled on the same day as Hurricane Irene's possible landfall in the area. (Should be a fun crowd event, eh?) Sorry that I don't have pictures to post. I didn't have a camera with me.
Anyway, I thought that it was nicely done, even if the Chinese sculptor and artists did give him faint but distinct oriental features, making him look a bit like an "angry asian guy" as some critics have stated.
But the overall layout was nice. I liked the monument as a whole, what with the statue, the allegory of King emerging from a "mountain of despair" and the fountain and inscriptions of some of his speeches. However my reaction is still mixed as I can't shake off the sense of revulsion and disgust at the King family shaking down the Foundation for over $800,000 for permission to use Dr. king's words and likeness. Seriously, what other memorialized icon's family has ever been so greedy? In my opinion, they should have told the family to take a hike and scrapped the plans for the memorial if they didn't want to let it happen without the baksheesh payoff.
I'm also admittedly troubled that it was the last space for a memorial on the entire national Mall and this one was the first and only one ever dedicated to a single private citizen--the rest are to former presidents or veterans of entire wars (WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam). Frankly, without denigrating Dr. King or some of the ideas that he stood for, I'd have much rather seen the space used for a memorial to former President Ronald Wilson Reagan, a man who made life better for every American and millions of people in other countries around the world. But that ignores the political realities, namely that, in 1996 when the initial go-ahead for the memorial came from the Park Service, a Democrat president named Clinton was in office, and there was no chance at all of his administration honoring a better man like President Reagan with that prime slot. And a cynic like myself also has a hard time overlooking the possible political correctness and overt pandering aspects of the decision, but I won't belabor that point today. I'll be nice and just say that it's a nifty statue and it's plaza offers a nice view of the Tidal basin and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial across the water. At least President Jefferson's statue was made in America and his family wasn't trying to put the arm on anyone in exchange for the right to "honor" him.