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Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is richly deserved

By Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor
The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington was postponed because of Hurricane Irene.
The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington was postponed because of Hurricane Irene.
  • Roland Martin: Dedication of Martin Luther King Jr. memorial delayed by hurricane
  • He says King deserves his placement among presidents on the National Mall
  • Martin says King's movement held America to its ideals

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

Washington (CNN) -- It's only fitting that during the week we were to dedicate the memorial in Washington to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., an earthquake would hit the region and the entire East Coast would be bracing itself for a hurricane.

When we think about the enormity of King's work, in which he gave his life, as well as the many folks who also fought in the civil rights movement, we realize that their actions struck at this nation's core with a ferocity never seen before.

At Thursday's MLK Memorial Foundation luncheon honoring the veterans of the movement, former U.S. Rep. Bill Gray said the civil rights movement was America's third revolution, following the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Some critics of the King Memorial claim that because he wasn't a president, he doesn't deserve such an honor on the National Mall. But that isn't so, and we should forever be thankful for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. -- King's fraternity and mine -- for leading the effort over the past 25 years to make this happen.

It is important to understand that King's place on the mall is appropriate.

Across the tidal basin is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which honors the man who articulated the vision of America. To the left is the Washington Monument, which honors the man who led the nation in the fight to establish the United States of America. Behind the King monument is the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, dedicated to the man who kept America from tearing apart.

But out of all of these men, it took a King to force America to live up to its ideals. Americans loved to recite the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but for many, those were simply words.

People really didn't understand what it meant to be an American until King and many domestics, postal workers, day laborers, doctors and lawyers forced the nation to make equal rights happen.

So when Americans now travel to the nation's capital, they can pay homage to a great man who was serious about his work, serious about the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised and serious about making America better.

The King Memorial, although bearing his name, really represents freedom fighters.

What should inspire all who see it is that no matter your station in life, you can make a difference. King was just 25 when he was drafted into the movement.

If there is something in your community that needs to be addressed, do it. Don't wait. Don't whine. Don't complain. Don't pass the buck.

Just be willing to serve, care and do it out of love and compassion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.