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May 14, 2008

Testimony: Public Favors the Current Design

Washington Post Metro columnist, Courtland Milloy, published an article this morning stating that "From Many Points of View, [the] Statue Is True to King's Image."  Milloy approached a variety of people on the street visiting Washington, D.C. as well as employees of the National Park Service who will be responsible for the upkeep of the Memorial once it has been completed. He found that a majority supported the current depiction of Dr. King.

I took a photograph of the proposed Martin Luther King Jr. memorial statue to the Tidal Basin yesterday and asked tourists and other passersby what they thought about it..

"Very impressive," said Robin Bartley, 54, a math and language arts teacher at Van Cleve Elementary School in Troy, Ohio. "The statue shows King projecting courage the way he did during a terrible time in our country's history."

Conner Super, a sixth-grader at Van Cleve, looked over the photograph and nodded his approval. "He looks determined," the 12-year-old said. "That's the kind of man he was."

Although some of those I interviewed shared the commission's views, the vast majority did not. And none of the African Americans I spoke with agreed with its findings.

"It's like Barack Obama. The more it looks like he could really become president, the more you hear about people suddenly not being ready for a black president," said Alex Williamson, a retired dentist visiting from Austin. "Now that it looks like we might get a statue of a black man on the mall, people are starting to say, 'Now just hold on one darn minute here.' "

Among the changes that the commission wants to see is a softening of King's image from "confrontational in character" to "a more sympathetic idea of the figure."

Anthony McCoy, a National Park Service employee, took a break from tending a flower bed on the Jefferson Memorial grounds and looked at the photograph.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," said McCoy, 50, of Southeast Washington. "Let's be clear: If you think there is something wrong with a statue that makes Martin Luther King come off as confrontational, then there is something wrong with you. King was confrontational. If he wasn't, he'd probably still be alive."

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