George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Honors College students tour MLK Memorial as part of annual visit

November 13, 2018

“I have a dream,” impactful words that echoed – 55 years ago – throughout the same grounds Honors College students toured on Saturday, September 8th.  HNRS 110 proves challenging to some freshmen, but this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) memorial trip was a fulfilling break from the classroom. Honors College students tour the MLK memorial as part of an annual trip

Entitled “Why We March,” the Honors College experiential learning opportunity included HNRS 110 students, faculty and Peer Research Mentors.  Through discussion, participants explored the narrative structure of the MLK memorial, developing unique perspectives on the stories it tells about the Civil Rights Movement. 

In previous years, HNRS 110 students have been encouraged to visit the memorial in groups on their own time.  According to Dr.Woolsey – Honors College Research Curriculum Coordinator – this is the first year an organized trip has taken place since Fall 2013. 

“HNRS 110 students benefit from learning about how we remember the past, and how we understand our civic responsibilities and duties in the present,” Dr. Woolsey says of the event.  A field trip of sorts, “Why We March” introduced freshmen to other peers outside of their 110 classrooms.  For many students, the trip was their first time visiting the nation’s capital. 

In an HNRS 110 colloquium the day prior, Dr. Char Miller – Associate Professor of Politics and Government in the School of Policy and Government – prepared students to engage with the MLK memorial.  Dr. Miller encouraged students to ask questions like, “What is present and absent from the representation?” “Why might various choices have been made?” 

“He did an excellent job of describing how and what to look at when it comes to monuments and memorials,” reflects Dr. Jan Allbeck, Associate Dean of the Honors College.  Dr. Allbeck noted the white marble (from China) and [MLK] facing the Jefferson – who was a slave owner – both symbolic choices made by the monument’s artists. 

Visitors view the MLK from different angles for new perspectivesThe MLK memorial trip allowed students to freely explore the memorial in their own time and way.  Many participants enjoyed the variety of quotes engraved throughout the monument space.  “I personally found many of the quotes on the memorial very powerful and applicable to today,” explains Dr. Allbeck, whose favorite line was, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”


Reporting by Jimmy O'Hara.  Photography by Dr. Jan Allbeck.