Friday, September 2, 2011

Dr. King And the Unnecessary Rewrite

Maya Angelou's been stirring up some controversy coming out against the wording on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, saying it makes him look like "an arrogant twit."
Here is Dr. King's original quote, in response to people who accused him of only seeking glory for himself. It's from a sermon he gave designed to encourage people to not be afraid to take the lead.

"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

Somewhere in the "development process", the quote was changed to:
"I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

The problem is the paraphrased quote, edited for brevity I guess, implies the exact opposite of the original's intention. It's like if you decided to defend yourself against the charge of showboating by...showboating. The impression is of a man who's puffing up himself rather than displaying Dr. King's quintessential humility. 

It'll be interesting to see whether the quote gets fixed or whether we're stuck with a truly sloppy edit for all eternity.