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Debbie Hines Headshot

MLK Monument Dedication: A Lesson of the 99%

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It was a beautiful sunny day fitting for the speeches, songs and spirit of the celebration to dedicate the Martin Luther King monument. From family members, friends, civil rights fighters, clergy, choirs, entertainers and a host of people from all over the country, the dedication of the Martin Luther King monument was fitting of the honor that Dr. King deserves.

I sat with a friend's family who had traveled from California to attend the ceremony as a teaching lesson for her teenage children. It was living history and learning the lessons of the past while looking to finish the work for the future. It was a glorious event overlooking the King monument, the Washington monument further in the distance and the Lincoln memorial to the north where Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream Speech."

As we watched and waited to see President Obama deliver his remarks, we were disappointed to discover that his remarks were only going to be delivered behind our actual stage to a small handful of dignitaries on the other side where the King monument stood. As the program proceeded to the president's remarks, those on the stage facing us left the stage and walked behind the stage to where the president stood. Of course, we could watch on large screens. But that's beside the point. Now I don't know if the idea was that of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Foundation, had to do with security for the president or some other reason. Nonetheless, it was symbolic of the 1% that were entitled to see the president in person, while the 99% of us watched on the screens after seeing everyone else in person. We explained the symbolism to the teenagers in our presence who understood it.

I doubt if Dr. King would have waited to give his "I Have a Dream" speech after all the other speakers of the day and then delivered it to a handful or select few behind the stage, while 99% of the crowd watched on large screens. Presentation sometimes is just as important as the spoken words. While the words spoken and delivered by President Obama were fitting of the occasion, the manner in which they were given was ill fitted.

Some questioned that it may have been done that way because of security reasons for the president. That didn't seem to be the case as the president has spoken at places where people in states which allow it, can openly carry guns. And having attended rallies with the president on the campaign trail, it seemed an unlikely excuse. Bags could have been checked and searched for security reasons.

After the program concluded, we walked over to the Lincoln Memorial, commemorating where Dr. King spoke 48 years ago. And we watched in our mind's eye as Dr. King spoke, while watching the entire crowd assembled -- not the select 1%.