By Jen Domagal-Goldman, National Manager, American Democracy Project
Between natural disasters here on the East Coast last week (a 5.8 earthquake last Wednesday and Hurricane Irene this past weekend) I found time to visit the new national monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is stunning. It is a fitting reminder of the important — albeit unfinished — work of a citizen who inspired a sense of civic agency and purpose in generations of Americans. As you walk through the “mountain of despair” and come around to the “stone of hope” in which MLK’s likeness is carved, you get a sense of his work and his dream for our democracy — that we as a nation live up to our founding principle of all persons being created equal.
The new MLK Memorial overlooks the Tidal Basin and is situated across the basin from the Jefferson Memorial and is nearby to the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. The surrounding “Inscription Walls” and the memorial as a whole are cause for contemplation and reflection — about how we use our own civic agency to enact change in our communities — local, national, and global, and what kind of society we want to leave as our legacy for the generations that come after us.
As we think about our work in the American Democracy Project, this MLK quote from 1959, inscribed on the wall of the memorial, particularly spoke to me: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” Career preparation is an important role of higher education and entails not only helping students get jobs, but also helping students develop the key civic skills and competencies that employers seek in their employees. These are the same civic skills and competencies that students will require as they consider their roles as informed and engaged citizens in our democracy and as they contemplate their “careers” as citizens.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit this new memorial, and if you’re in town stop by AASCU and visit us!
For more information about the MLK, Jr. Memorial go here.