Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told The Washington Post on Friday that the National Park Service, which oversees the memorial, has 30 days to inform him of a plan to change the quotation.
“This is important because Dr. King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United States of America, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” Salazar told the newspaper.
Salazar’s move came two days before what would have been King’s 83rd birthday, and three days before the federal holiday celebrated in his honor.
In fact, the civil rights leader said, in the 1968 sermon from which the quote was taken, that “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.”
According to the Post, it’s too early to say how much it will cost to modify the 30-foot statue, which is located on Washington’s National Mall.
The National Park Service is to consult to the King family and the foundation for the memorial, which raised the funds for the monument, before reporting back to Salazar.
The foundation apparently has a replacement quote in mind. But with the quote carved deep into the granite memorial, foundation officials say it would be impossible to put King’s entire statement onto the statue.