The growingly few of us who can remember hearing, live, the presidential address to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, will, I strongly suspect, remember best its magnificent conclusion and promise – which he led in keeping:
“We will go on to the inevitable victory, so help us God!”
Virginia’s George Mason University History News Network reported in December 2004:
“WND published an exclusive in June citing an interview with Betsey Glick, the director of communications for the [World War II] memorial [in Washington D.C.]. She explained:
“‘The truth is that part of the speech (where God is referred to) does not appear anywhere on the memorial. We only picked one sentence from that entire speech, and it is included in its entirety. It’s about four paragraphs above the sentence that ends with ‘so help us God.’ Glick attributed the controversy over the ‘error’ to a ‘poor recollection of Roosevelt’s speech.’ (!)”
That is the first change that should be enacted into legislation by Congress.
The second is endorsed by a Washington Post editorial published on Dec. 30, which was headlined:
“Why hasn’t the government done the right thing with the MLK memorial?”
This editorial noted:
“The Interior Department has yet to conclude its deliberations over whether and how to change the words carved over King’s left shoulder. It shouldn’t be this hard. In a too-hasty design decision made without consultation with the relevant parties, the lead architect of the memorial truncated a quotation of King’s, inadvertently altering its meaning. A long and nuanced statement by King’s decrying egotism and self-promotion wound up, perversely, as a boast: ‘I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,’ the memorial now says. In life, King never made such a pompous claim.
“Responding to intense public criticism – from, among others, the poet Maya Angelou, who said the misquote made King sound like ‘an arrogant twit,’ and Martin Luther King III, who said, ‘That was not what Dad said’ – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed his concern as well. We optimistically predicted a decision by the end of the year. We’re still waiting.
“The call for revision has come from historians, from experts in writing, from King’s children and from civil rights veterans who struggled alongside him. Those who argue against the change say only that the statement etched in stone was not meant to be a quote. But how else is one to interpret a first-person declarative statement on a monument whose only other inscriptions are direct quotes?
“The decision should be easy. The monument exists to recall a great leader and orator, a man who chose his words carefully. To be any less careful is to dishonor his memory.”
This Post editorial also criticizes the following about what is supposed to be a memorial:
“The civil rights leader stands arms crossed, looking impatient, indignant, glowering. Critics called it a confrontational stance, too angry and menacing for a man of peaceful resistance.”
While it would be just too much to remove this statue – this Post critique raises justifiable concern at what it rightfully describes as “this pompous claim” in the wording should surely be changed, as should the wording on FDR’s memorial, which deleted “so help us God.”