“It is one of the enduring mysteries of American history—so near-providential as to give the most hardened atheist pause—that it should have produced, at every hinge point, great men who matched the moment,” begins Charles Krauthammer’s essay “Martin Luther King in Words and Stone” in Krauthhammer’s Things That Matter.
A roiling, revolutionary 18th-century British colony gives birth to the greatest cohort of political thinkers ever: Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Jay. The crisis of the 19th century brings forth Lincoln; the 20th, FDR.
Equally miraculous is Martin Luther King Jr. Black America’s righteous revolt against a century of post-emancipation oppression could have gone in many bitter and destructive directions. It did not. This was largely the work of one man’s leadership, moral imagination and strategic genius. He turned his own deeply Christian belief that “unearned suffering is redemptive” into a creed of nonviolence that he carved into America’s political consciousness. The result was not just racial liberation but national redemption.
Such an achievement, such a life, deserves a monument alongside the other miracles of our history—Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR—which is precisely where stands the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It opened … on the Tidal Basin, adjacent to Roosevelt’s seven acres, directly across from Jefferson’s temple, and bisecting the invisible cartographic line connecting the memorials for Jefferson and Lincoln, authors of America’s first two births of freedom, whose promises awaited fulfillment by King.
Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, 25 August 2011.
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